Artspace Presents New Limited Edition by Guadalupe Maravilla

Guadalupe Maravilla releases Artspace & Ballroom Marfa edition Mini Relámpagos, 2024

Guadalupe Maravilla releases Artspace & Ballroom Marfa edition Mini Relámpagos, 2024

When Guadalupe Maravilla hosted a film screening at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the city’s gallery goers didn’t just dress for the occasion; they also brought along a few extra garments too.

Maravilla’s film told the story of his monumental vibrational healing instrument, Mariposa Relámpago, which in turn echoes Maravilla’s own life story, as both an undocumented child migrant, making a perilous journey from war torn El Salvador to the United States, and as a cancer survivor – his own healing process deeply informs his art. 

To acknowledge his journey and help those going through similar tribulations, Maravilla insisted that MoMA also run a coat drive alongside the screening, encouraging visitors to bring along a winter jacket for newly arrived migrants in New York City. 

This unusual act of kindness highlights the reach of this transdisciplinary visual artist, and healer, who grounds his practice in the historical and contemporary contexts belonging to undocumented communities and the cancer community. 

In this interview, conducted to coincide with a new Artspace/ Ballroom Marfa edition, Mini Relámpagos, 2024 - a cast bronze sculpture with Verdigris patina, 5 1/2 x 23 x 1 1/8 inches in an edition of 25 + 1 AP - Maravilla describes how his monumental work informed the new edition, how his practice takes in social concerns and activism, and how he hopes to create not one but two temples, where his art and healing can find permanent homes.

Maravilla has performed and presented his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Queens Museum, New York; The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; El Museo del Barrio, New York; Museum of Art of El Salvador, San Salvador; X Central American Biennial, Costa Rica; New York; Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, New York; and the Drawing Center, New York, among others.  

 GUADALUPE MARAVILLA - Mini Relámpagos, 2024 

Photography by Garrett Carrol 

How does your own life story inform this edition? My life story is pretty crazy, and my story connects to my work in so many different ways. I was a child that experienced war in El Salvador and I migrated as a kid to the United States. Eventually I had cancer and overcame it, and I do a lot of work with how trauma can manifest, and I do healing work now. I work with cancer communities and undocumented communities and other people that are struggling with their physical and mental health, so I've become a healer.

My work can be performance, it can be healing rituals, it can be activism, it could be, you know, raising awareness of specific issues. But it could also be painting, sculpture, installation, and film. It could be so many different things.

In this case, the serpent in this edition is a little bronze sculpture that I first created for the side of a vibrational healing instrument that's the size of a school bus, called Mariposa Relámpago. It’s a little mini serpent – a replica of the one on the bus. The original was made out of volcanic rock, and this was made out of bronze.


 GUADALUPE MARAVILLA - Mini Relámpagos, 2024

 Photography by Garrett Carrol

Mariposa Relámpago is literally a vibrational healing instrument. There are gongs attached to the side of this bus and when we play them the floors and the walls vibrate. There’s no engine in the bus now, it’s strictly a vibrational healing instrument, and it is traveling the world right now.

Basically, in the United States, yellow school buses are used to transport children to school, and after the buses a certain mileage, they get sent to Latin America where they get repurposed as transportation buses. Individuals buy them, and add a bit of bling, a bit of chrome and color; they put in speakers, add music. It’s kinda festive. They're really beautiful. So I went to El Salvador and bought one of those buses and gave it a third life.


GUADALUPE MARAVILLA - Mini Relámpagos, 2024 

  Photography by Garrett Carrol 

The Artspace edition is a bronze sculpture in the shape of a lightning-bolt snake with the head of a butterfly. Can you tell us about the symbolism? Butterflies migrate from Mexico – where I was working on the bus – to the United States. They don't recognise borders. So the butterfly symbolizes not recognising the borders that we have today.

And the snake? Well, if you look at the medical symbol and the side of the ambulance, there's two snakes, right? It’s a Greek symbol, and it recognises that snakes symbolize healing. A lot of indigenous cultures also recognise this. That’s why I like that symbol. When I was overcoming cancer, I did all the Western stuff: chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, but I also saw a lot of indigenous shamans. They did a lot of ceremonies in the jungles all over the Americas, and the serpent appears to you during visions of healing.

I had never experienced that until I went through that journey, and that was a big part of healing from cancer. Again, I'm connecting illness to migration and war and displacement. I feel like now with the work that I do, the snakes appear in different ways.


GUADALUPE MARAVILLA - Mini Relámpagos, 2024

 Photography by Garrett Carrol 

Tell us about the lightning bolt motif It's like this healing energy coming from the sky. That's what it's intended to be.

What was it like working in bronze?  It is great. It’s a really good material because we put them outside. A lot of the other work that I do, like painting, can't get wet. but in this case, it feels really good because you can put it out there in the world and you can live it. This little, mini lightning bolt takes up less space; it’s something that could be part of someone's home.

Is there a Mayan influence in this work? No. I'm not directly influenced by Mayan spiritually. I am connected to my ancestry, which is mixed. I have blood from Africa, I have European blood and I have some indigenous. So, you know, I'm a hybrid person; and I’m also a New Yorker and a cancer survivor. My work is really influenced by my life, by everything that I've gone through, all the challenges that I've had; that's where it comes from.


GUADALUPE MARAVILLA - Mini Relámpagos, 2024

Photography by Garrett Carrol

How was it working with fabricators on this piece? My practice revolves around me making things, organizing and hiring people to do specific details and working with bigger productions. I believe that it's really important for my work to create a micro economy around it. I go back to Central America and Mexico, and I hire people to do specific jobs. For this edition, the bronze is made in Mexico, in a foundry about an hour away from Mexico City where I do a lot of my work.

It’s unusual for an artist to also see themselves as a healer and also to see their work reaching out into a social realm. How does it feel to move both within and beyond the art world? That’s a good question. You know, yesterday we had a screening of my film at MoMA, and I also had a coat drive happening at the same time. So, in this prestigious institution – MoMA – people were coming in and leaving a coat or backpack for those less-fortunate than themselves.

Part of what I do is, like, feeding people and raising money and getting grants to help. So it's like, how can I help heal anyone or teach anyone how to heal themselves if they're cold and hungry? You know? So that's how it starts. A lot of my work is activism. I'm out in the street protesting, That’s also part of my life.

I have this giant platform; I'm getting recognition from museums all over the world. How can I use that to give back? It’s not just fundraising and giving back to people that are in all types of need, but it’s also going back and creating jobs and creating microeconomics around my practice – that’s really, really important.

Tomorrow I'm activating my show at P.P.O.W. We will do a ceremony for cancer survivors. Because I have that experience that I overcame cancer, I can teach others how to do it as well. I'm just kind of inventing my own path.


Guadalupe Maravilla Guadalupe Maravilla - Courtesy of the Artist and P·P·O·W, New York, Photo credit Rowan Renee

Do you feel you're still progressing as a healer? I'm progressing as a human being. I'm progressing as a healer, as well as progressing as an artist. As a friend, as a partner. I know nothing right now and I have so much to learn.

I have visions of the future. Mariposa Relámpago is currently in Marfa, Texas. I'm going to go activate her there and then she's going to Austin and she's going to Houston. And then she may go up to the Philippines and to Asia.

Ideally, long term, I would love to build a temple in Brooklyn. It could be a community center, a food distribution site, a place where people go to meditate, a place where they do sound ceremonies. I want it to be a place that I can give back to communities. I want artists and healers to run it, and I want them to get good pay and full health benefits. I would transform it into a sculpture. The whole interior. So, you know, I have a whole vision of it. And then there’s the cat temple.

What’s the cat temple? The cat temple is something I’ve envisioned in the middle of nowhere. Basically after Mariposa Relámpago is done touring, I want to buy some land somewhere, build an amphitheater, put the bus there, and basically announce what I'm doing, and people can do healing work there with me. I want 50 cats to be loose in the space, because cats are healers too.

If you think about it, we talk about vibration and healing. Anytime my cat starts purring, they're working on people. I'm imagining the 50 cats getting on top of everyone sitting on their yoga mats and healing everyone. We're playing the instruments, so that's the grand vision that I have for later.

Take a close look and buy Mini Relámpagos, 2024 here.


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