Dia de Guadalupe 12 Diciembre


12/12/21 marks 8 years Cancer free for artist Guadalupe Maravilla on his birthday, which he celebrated with a sound bath in his MoMA installation. 2021 marks the rise of Guadalupe Maravilla’s career with three monumental shows, with a round-up below from PPOW Gallery, Socrates Sculpture Park and MoMA. ♾

Guadalupe Maravilla is a transdisciplinary visual artist, choreographer, and healer. At the age of eight, Maravilla was part of the first wave of unaccompanied, undocumented children to arrive at the United States border in the 1980s as a result of the Salvadoran Civil War. In 2016, Maravilla became a U.S. citizen and adopted the name Guadalupe Maravilla in solidarity with his undocumented father, who uses Maravilla as his last name. As an acknowledgement of his own migratory past, Maravilla grounds his practice in the historical and contemporary contexts of immigrant culture, particularly those belonging to Latinx communities.

Combining pre-colonial Central American ancestry, personal mythology, and collaborative performative acts, Maravilla’s performances, objects, and drawings trace the history of his own displacement and that of others. Culling the entangled fictional and autobiographical genealogies of border crossing accounts, Maravilla nurtures collective narratives of trauma into celebrations of perseverance and humanity. Across all media, Maravilla explores how the systemic abuse of immigrants physically manifests in the body, reflecting on his own battle with cancer, which began in his gut. Maravilla’s large-scale sculptures, titled Disease Throwers, function as headdresses, instruments, and shrines through the incorporation of materials collected from sites across Central America, anatomical models, and sonic instruments such as conch shells and gongs. Described by Maravilla as “healing machines”, these Disease Throwers ultimately serve as symbols of renewal, generating therapeutic, vibrational sound.

“Disease Thrower”, draws on Maravilla’s own experiences with illness, migration, and the anxieties experienced by undocumented peoples.

“I create new mythologies that take the form of real and fictionalized rituals based on my own lived experiences,” says Guadalupe Maravilla. Two events from the artist’s life animate his work most of all: emigrating from his native El Salvador to the United States as an unaccompanied, undocumented eight-year-old and, later, surviving cancer. From this personal history grows a multidisciplinary practice that addresses trauma, contagion, rehabilitation, and rebirth.

"Luz y Fuerza" in MoMA

“Luz y Fuerza” in his MoMA gallery—whose Spanish title translates as “hope and strength”—features works inspired by Mesoamerican myths and Salvadoran traditions. The sculptures are made from natural materials and ready-made objects selected for their therapeutic, historical, symbolic, and aesthetic properties. Maravilla sees them as healing instruments he can activate—and often does, especially for people experiencing illness and other hardships. The artist is offering sound baths to various audiences as part of this presentation.

Throughout the many teachings Maravilla experienced in his healing process, one notion kept returning – if one cleanses properly, they will heal seven generations back and seven generations forward. Discovering sound therapy during his cancer radiation treatment, Maravilla has since developed a series of vertical, large-scale, free-standing sculptures, titled Disease Throwers. Functioning as headdresses, instruments, and shrines, the towering sculptures serve as symbols of renewal, generating vibrational sound from gongs. Described by Maravilla as “healing machines”, the structures incorporate materials collected from sites across Central America, such as anatomical models, toys, sacred objects, and sonic instruments including conch shells and flutes.

The exhibition’s eponymous seven twisting gourds with extending talons embody the seven stomachs of the artist’s ancestors. Surrounding the walls of the Seven Ancestral Stomachs is Maravilla’s reinterpretation of the popular Salvadorian children’s game, Tripa Chuca or “Dirty Guts,” in which two players take turns drawing lines that never intersect. Over the course of Maravilla’s more than two-month journey to the U.S., Tripa Chuca became a survival tool. For Seven Ancestral Stomachs, Maravilla has invited an undocumented person to collaborate with him on the Tripa Chuca mural in order to create a mapping between two displaced people on the walls of the gallery.

Furthering this investigation of various curative approaches, Maravilla also presents a series of retablos chronicling his healing journey. Originating in Medieval Spain, retablos are small devotional paintings, traditionally used in Mexican and Central American cultures to honor and celebrate the miracles of everyday life. Sending detailed digital sketches to a four-generation retablo painter he met in Mexico while retracing his migration route, Maravilla’s personalization of these votive offerings exemplifies his dedication to supporting a micro-economy through his artistic practice. Rather than making these paintings himself, Maravilla’s choice to collaborate expands the cross-cultural exchange of his practice and helps preserve the tradition of retablo painting in Mexico.

Text from guadalupemaravilla.com

Photos & Videos by Olimpia Dior & Masha Orlov