‘Mariposa Relámpago’ opens this weekend at Ballroom Marfa

Photo by Mel Taing Installation view, Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago, the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston, 2023.

MARFA –– Mariposa Relámpago, a traveling installation created by Salvadoran-born, New York-based transdisciplinary visual artist, choreographer and healer Guadalupe Maravilla, will open at Ballroom on November 4, with a celebration from 4 to 7 p.m., as it makes its way across Texas in a series of exhibitions and sound activations presented by three leading institutions. 

The installation was originally commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston in May 2023, and after its Texas opening at Ballroom Marfa, it will travel to The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria in April 2024 and will commence at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston in November 2024

Known for his intricately layered paintings, large-scale sculptures and sound ceremonies, Maravilla’s expansive practice draws from his personal history and Central American ancestry. Maravilla fled El Salvador’s civil war as an unaccompanied minor and made a perilous journey through Central America to reunite with family in the United States, becoming a citizen in 2006. Later in life, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, an illness he links to generational trauma, the stresses of his migration experience, and being undocumented. Throughout Maravilla’s recovery process, he learned ancient healing methods, including sound, a form of rehabilitation he feels has been abandoned by Western medicine. Maravilla continues to use these methods on others who have had similar experiences.

Maravilla’s monumental installation Mariposa Relámpago was born out of the artist’s life history. The artist purchased a yellow school bus in El Salvador with the intention of re-tracing his migration route from El Salvador to the United States. The sculpture continues to travel to three locations in Texas. Equal parts sculpture, shrine and healing machine, the work was transformed from a school bus and elaborately reconstructed with hundreds of objects that speak to Maravilla’s story. Now adorned with chrome plating, the bus features fringe made of cutlery and a range of objects imbued with spiritual, political and medicinal meaning, from models of children’s torsos, intended to reference the ghosts of those who first used the bus and those who have traversed across borders in search of safety, to symbols from Mesoamerican cosmology, Indigenous practices, and spiritual emblems as well as contemporary imagery of disease and medicine.

Considered one of the largest vibrational healing instruments in the world –– and Maravilla’s largest sculpture to date –– Mariposa Relámpago features gongs and other tonal objects suspended from its sides, which the artist activates during his sound baths alongside a team of healers. These sessions, which Maravilla has hosted specifically for undocumented immigrants and cancer survivors, are known to reduce stress, anxiety and trauma that physically manifests in the body from systematic abuse of immigrants. The artist-led sound ceremonies will be held at each iteration of the work in Texas.

Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago’s Texas Tour comes at a time when the state is confronted with its own deep-seated, socio-political issues surrounding border control, immigration and healthcare. With the humanitarian crisis with asylum seekers across the state, Mariposa Relámpago comes at a critical moment in Texas. Three leading institutions and respective curators have come together in a unique collaboration that takes Maravilla’s powerful installation across the state and invites visitors to simultaneously explore the notions of displacement and recovery, demonstrating the power of contemporary art to confront trauma and nurture healing. Outdoors in all three venues, the work welcomes public dialogue about immigration, healing and the transformational potential that we all embody.

“Guadalupe first came to Ballroom Marfa as an artist in Ballroom Sessions–The Father Place residency, where artists explore ideas in their practice and incorporate learnings from the region. While Marfa is an art destination, it is also just 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Migration is embedded in both Guadalupe’s work and this landscape. As the bus travels from West to East Texas, each of the partner venues will have a different dialogue about migration, ways of healing, and the power of art. We’re excited to have Guadalupe back to present this powerful work in Marfa, especially during our 20th anniversary year that is dedicated to visionary artists like Guadalupe,” said Daisy Nam, executive director and curator of Ballroom Marfa.

Throughout the duration of Mariposa Relámpago’s presentation, Ballroom Marfa will host a variety of programs, including an opening, closing, and private sound bath ceremony led by the artist and his sound healers, alongside an outdoor film screening of its creation, beginning with the bus’s blessing from shamans to the sourcing of volcanic rock from El Salvador. Additionally on view will be a Tripa Chuca mural inspired by a Salvadoran children’s game where two players draw lines between numbers that ultimately form abstract patterns or a map. Maravilla partnered with a local collaborator, who shares a similar experience of migration, to create the mural together on Ballroom’s courtyard walls surrounding the sculpture.

“It’s really special for me to be back here in Marfa after my time as an artist in residence at Ballroom. This time I’m here with Mariposa Relámpago as it starts its journey in Texas first in Marfa, then to Austin and Houston. Because of this political climate in Texas and sharing the border with Mexico, the bus needs to be here right now.”

Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago will be on view at Ballroom Marfa from November 4, 2023, until March 16, 2024.