26 August 2021

Visualizing What Individual Madness Looks Like

26 August 2021 - Written by Laurence Cornet

In a deeply personal series that flirts with the two genres of science fiction and horror, Mexican photographer Liza Ambrossio gives life to her personal demons through a wide variety of abstract forms and references.

Liza Ambrossio’s visual vocabulary is rooted in her plural experience, as a Mexican native inspired by the Aztec myths, by the violence she witnessed as a journalist reporting on the narcos, by the aesthetics of the Japanese counterculture and by the feeling of loneliness she felt when she moved to Europe.

Over two main projects, she developed this alphabet made of disfigured faces, mutilated bodies and sci-fi scenes. The most recent one, Blood Orange, was recently published as a book by Kehrer Verlag. On the cover, a child’s face, full frame, transfixes the viewer with ice-blue eyes. The contrast between the infant facial features, the freckles and the chilling effect of his painted eye-ball is striking.

Yet, past the shock, the two alien irises appear to reflect a welcoming room, with a door in the back. “The water and cold colours in my work evoke the loneliness, but they also enable to go from one space to another”, she says in an interview for Fundacion Nadine. With this in mind, we navigate Ambrossio’s images as we navigate a dream or the imagination – without landmarks no pre-existing logic.

Each image has many layers of meanings and inspiration, all together expressing the complexity of trauma and “individual madness”, as Ambrossio puts it. “The heart of this work contains a ritual language that is convulsively expressed around change, mental illness, loneliness, freedom and destiny”, she explains. And this, in a range of references that is nearly unlimited.

The body is central to the work, that is not merely photographic but truly performative. For one image, Ambrossio embed each of her fingers into crab legs and claw. “It’s tainted with the aesthetics of the Japanese counterculture and the Aztec rituals of human sacrifice as a form of poetics”, she says. Transformed in this hybrid manner, a common body part takes on a life for itself as the incarnation of one’s demon, and opens in the process a door for multiple interpretations. From the crab that bears a pattern resembling the face of an angry samurai to cannibalism that turns human part into delights, passing by torture as a door to the subconscious and everyone's self-destructive impulses, this crab-nailed hand is an example of representation of Ambrossio’s muti-layered language.

“Each image is like a story that doesn’t end’, Ambrossio says. And with that, she invites us to feel comfortable in the chaos and penetrate the depth of our imagination.


All photos © Liza Ambrossio, from the series Blood Orange


Liza Ambrossio is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives and works between Spain, France, and Mexico.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb and the international photo editor at Le Monde.


This article is part of our feature series Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

4 minutes

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