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Guadalupe Maravilla Transforms a School Bus into an Immersive Installation for Sound-Based Healing

Chrome plating, fringe made of humble kitchen cutlery, illuminated chandeliers, and symbolic sculptures of flora and fauna adorn a school bus parked at the ICA Watershed in the Boston Harbor Shipyard. The elaborately retrofitted vehicle is the largest project to-date by Guadalupe Maravilla and the latest addition to his Disease Thrower series.

Born out of the artist’s traumatic experience immigrating as an unaccompanied minor and suffering from colon cancer as an adult, the ongoing body of work evinces the healing power of sound and vibration. Titled “Mariposa Relámpago,” or lightning butterfly, the new work has had several lives before making its way to Boston: the bus was first used for transporting students in the U.S., then sent to the artist’s native El Salvador, and finally ended up in his studio where it underwent its current transformation.

Fastened to the vehicle’s body are several objects Maravilla found while retracing the 3,000-mile route he traveled as an eight-year-old to reunite with his parents, who had fled the country’s civil war. Included are references to Mayan cosmology and indigenous practices, spiritual emblems, and more contemporary imagery of disease and medicine, including a model of human anatomy resting atop the hood. Gongs and other tonal objects suspend from the sides, which Maravilla rings during his ritualistic sound baths. These sessions, which he’s hosted specifically for undocumented immigrants and those dealing with cancer, are known to reduce stress, anxiety, and tension that can worsen the pain of illness and injury.

Also in the exhibition at the Watershed are smaller paintings, scale models, and Disease Thrower sculptures made of mixed natural and synthetic materials that similarly reflect the artist’s exploration of displacement and recovery. Immersive and totemic, the works are part of the artist’s effort “to confront trauma in order to heal.”

Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago is on view through September 4, with two sound baths scheduled for June 10 and August 13.