Immolation, Carla Rippey's photography

Carla Rippey Immolation

No Shelter, 2010. Courtesy of the artist

Fashion, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

Fire, 2010. Courtesy of the artist

Immolation, 2009. Courtesy of the artist

St. Elmo’s Fire, 2009. Courtesy of the artist

The Cloister, 2011. Courtesy of the artist

Death by Fire, 2011. Courtesy of the artist

Artist's statement

I started collecting images and working from the resulting archives in the late 1970s; one of the subjects that emerged with time was that of vanishing points, another was fire: the act of burning registered in reiterated images clipped from newspapers, magazines and later on, downloaded from the internet.

When laser photocopies were commercialized in late 1980s, I discovered that the toner from the photocopies could be transferred with solvent and an etching press to Japanese papers and began to apply the practice to the making of artist’s books. Starting around 2010, with this technique I made a series of artist’s books with the fire images, a series called Immolation.

At first, I juxtaposed images of volcanoes and people set on fire (lynchings in Mexico), throwing fire (Palestinians) or setting themselves on fire in acts of desperation. Fire seemed like the ultimate manifestation of uncontrolled energy, energy gone bad, and besides, fire burns the eye: it has an enormous visual impact. The fiery acts of humans were an echo of the eruptions of volcanoes and the volcanoes, a metaphor for people out of control. A later artist’s book in the series, The Cloister, juxtaposes a face cropped from an old postcard of a Japanese nun with a stereoscopic image of a lotus pond; this work is about contained or trapped fire, burning from within. The books are collaged or patch worked together, intervened with stitching and metal leaf; the rims of the books are scorched. In the work Fire, on the cover of a metal box, a hand holds a match to the crumpled mass of fire emerging from within.

Growing out of my original interest in fire, I started working with the idea of Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. This is the title of the book by the linguist George Lakoff, who discusses therein an aboriginal tribe – the Dyirbal – in Australia whose language includes four genders, one of which is defined principally by women, fire and dangerous things. I was struck by the fact that the Dyirbal consider these three categories to be naturally related, and this inspired me to put together new archives working with images generated by the phrases “women, fire” or “dangerous objects” put into Google search. The results were surprising and sometimes shocking. “Women, fire” came up with a surfeit of situations related to the abuse of women. With the words “dangerous objects” I found a number of X Rays of unusual objects that people and animals had somehow managed to swallow; asteroids came up continually.

Out of this process came the artist’s book, No Shelter, whose narrative includes a woman arsonist, a burning house, a wedding tent set on fire for revenge, and a female Kurdish guerrilla fighter by her campfire. Another work, Death by Fire is based on a series of photographs of a Chinese woman, about to be evicted, who burns herself alive on her rooftop; I include them here in the series Immolation. The Australian tribe could have told me that my Google search, combining the factors of women, fire and dangerous things, would bring forth deadly images, and a world of pain.

Most of this work was done a few years ago and now we live in an age of continuous devastating fires, fires that threaten the planet, or at least, our existence on it. My small fires were prescient of an ever – expanding consuming wave. I hope that somehow with our work we can do more than bear witness; we must fight fire with fire.

About the photographer


1950, Kansas, USA



Based in

Mexico City

Carla Rippey is an American-born visual artist based in Mexico City. Her work seeks to expand the margins of drawing and graphics, applying strategies of appropriation, selection and edition. She works extensively from her collection of archives (images from photographs, postcards, family albums, newspapers, magazines, books and internet sources), which she translates into drawings, artist’s books and prints.

She was educated in Nebraska, La Sorbonne, Paris, The State University of New York and the University of Chile in Santiago. She was active in the feminist movement in Boston and in the Chilean left from 1969 de 1973 and has lived in Mexico since 1973. In the 70s she took part in founding the Infrarrealist literary movement and participated in the Mexican artists’ movement "Los grupos" as a member of the artists’ collective Peyote and the Company.

She has had, among others, individual shows in the Museum of Modern Art, Mexico, The National University Museum El Chopo, the National Print Museum, the galleries Arte Mexicano and Arróniz Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, as well as the Graphics Institute of Oaxaca, Seguela Gallery in Guangzhou, China, and the Mavi Museum in Santiago, Chile. Her recent group shows include Radical Women, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum, NYC, 2019; Open Graphics: Expansive Routes in Mexican Graphics, Arprim, Centre d'essai en art imprimé, Edificio Belge, Montreal, Canadá, 2018; Latin Fire: Other photographs of a Continent, Photoespaña 2015, Madrid, and Distant Star / Estrella Distante: an exhibition organized around the writings of Roberto Bolaño, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, CA / Galería Kurimanzutto, CDMX, 2011.

She was Director of the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking La Esmeralda in Mexico City from 2013 to 2017. Since 1997 she has been a member of the Mexican arts grant system (Sistema Nacional de Creadores) and has been a member of the National Academy of Arts, Mexico since 2018.

Prix Pictet Podcast with Carla Rippey

Join celebrated Mexican photographers, Prix Pictet shortlisted artist Carla Rippey, and Magnum photographer Yael Martinez, as they explore the richness of Mexico and the social issues its communities are facing, in this episode developed in collaboration with Magnum Photos. Recorded live in Mexico City, the episode is moderated by Patricia Gonzales Ramires, director of the board of patronage of the Museum of Modern Art Mexico. This podcast is part of the ‘Magnum Photos X Prix Pictet: In Dialogue’ a series of talks which celebrate the 75th anniversary of Magnum Photos across the world.

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