Installation view of “Sound Botánica,” Henie Onstad, Høvikodden, Norway, 2022. Photo: Christian Tunge, Courtesy the artist and Henie Onstad

Healing Instruments: A Conversation with Guadalupe Maravilla

New York-based Guadalupe Maravilla left his homeland as a young boy during the height of El Salvador’s civil war. That traumatic past and a more recent bout with cancer have directed the course of his life and work. Maravilla’s “Disease Throwers” are determined by a need to heal himself, to gather strength from and somehow dissolve suffering. Side-stepping the beautiful, these strange and powerful sculptures appear to have grown out of the ground they stand on, drawing on fantasy and faith healing to empower. Exceeding the modern world’s narrow definition of art, Maravilla’s works embrace a ritual significance and purpose. The performative part of his practice publicly activates the “Disease Throwers” and transforms them into tools to operate on the soul. With a human, yet otherworldly quality, they seem to transcend reality, addressing the unknown while offering something that returns us to the real.

Rajesh Punj: Could you explain the origin of your “Disease Throwers” and why you make them? Guadalupe Maravilla: The “Disease Thrower” shrines and sculptures act as my healing instruments. My work is about being one of the first documented children to have come to the United States; I was separated from my family at the age of eight. It is also about being a cancer survivor. It is about empowerment and dealing with my own trauma, displacement, and illness while giving to others . . .

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