Guadalupe Maravilla:
Purring Monsters with Mirrors on Their Backs


About the exhibition 


Guadalupe Maravilla is a transdisciplinary artist, healer, and activist, born in San Salvador, El Salvador, who utilizes his practice as a forum for collective healing. Anchored by the integration of his autobiographical experiences with issues of migration, displacement, and illness, Maravilla’s work centers communities that have historically been marginalized. Maravilla uses art to shed light on the collective traumas of undocumented immigrants and cancer survivors and empowers them with the tools to assist with their process of healing. For his exhibition at the MCA Denver, Maravilla will present new and recent work including a Retablo painting, a site-specific Tripa Chuca mural, and three Disease Throwers sculptures, one of which was specially commissioned for the exhibition.

(Click here to listen to guest curator, Larry Ossei-Mensah, speak about his work with Maravilla on this exhibition).

Guadalupe Maravilla (born 1976) came to the United States as an unaccompanied minor in 1984 fleeing war in his native El Salvador. While earning his MFA at Hunter College, Maravilla was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. These challenges inform Maravilla’s practice and are expressed within the suite of works in this exhibition: the Disease Throwers that feature calibrated gongs and plastic replicas of organs, the Retablo painting, and the Tripa Chuca murals. Maravilla uses sound, ritual, and collaboration to create spaces for communities that relate to his own communal history. Acknowledging the global effects of COVID-19 and wealth disparity, Maravilla welcomes all visitors to engage with his practice but is particularly attuned to creating a space of welcome for undocumented immigrants, the Latinx and Central American community, the working class, and cancer survivors.

The Disease Throwers, begun in 2019, are a series of sculptures that take a variety of forms such as headdresses, shrines, and healing instruments. These sculptures, when activated during Maravilla’s sound bath ceremonies, create portals. The exhibition features Disease Thrower #17, 2021 which like many of the sculptures, includes objects that range from the quotidian to the sacred, such as wood, loofahs, an anatomical model of a snake head and heart, obsidian, and six gongs that are activated during his sound bath ceremonies. Made of cast aluminum and steel tubing Disease Thrower #14, 2021 reflects Maravilla’s adoption of new, more durable materials for his 2021 outdoor exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park. These sculptures, along with the new Disease Thrower commissioned by MCA Denver, will be activated during a series of sound bath ceremonies on July 16 and 17. 

The exhibition also features a new site-specific mural by Maravilla that is created by playing Tripa Chuca, a game Maravilla enjoyed as a child in El Salvador. The game Tripa Chuca provided the artist with comfort and cultivated a bonding experience with the other people he was traveling with during his migration from El Salvador to the United States. Hence, the process of drawing to create the Tripa Chuca mural centers on the importance of Maravilla forming a bond with his collaborator while creating a forum to explore notions of displacement, mapping, and abstraction as a form of storytelling.

Curated by
Larry Ossei-Mensah for MCA Denver

On view from

Informative Text

MCA Denver thanks the citizens of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District for their support of the exhibition.

Informative Text


Hi, my name is Larry Ossei-Mensah, and I have the pleasure and honor of collaborating with Guadalupe Maravilla on this incredible exhibition, Purring Monsters with Mirrors on Their Backs.

Purring Monsters with Mirrors on Their Backs features sculpture, painting and wall murals. Guadalupe Maravilla's practice in this exhibition and having the opportunity to collaborate has taught me the importance of art as a tool for healing, self-discovery, but also mining memories.

The exhibition's also taught me about the importance of collaboration. Collaboration for him is part of his DNA. It is not something that is lip service. It is part of what makes his practice unique, refreshing and powerful, and that it is imperative for him to take an inclusive approach, whether it is focusing on migrants and immigrants, survivors of cancer, or other individuals and communities that have historically been pushed to the margins.

His work is a welcoming platform, tribute, an altar of sorts to all these various communities and engaging them in ways that feel incredible, amazing and special.

I've learned from collaborating with Guadalupe Maravilla on this exhibition is the importance of visibility and acknowledging people who have been pushed to the margins are not necessarily always put at the forefront. This work is a celebration of those individuals and all the things that make us human.

Another thing that I've learned through collaborating with Guadalupe is how to look at myself differently. As a first generation Ghanaian-American, I see a lot of my familiar experience in the work that he is sharing with us and the dialogue and conversation we've had leading up to opening this exhibition at MCA Denver.
And I think a lot of people will see a piece of themselves in this exhibition, whether it be through a Retablo painting, whether that be through a Tripa Chuca wall work, drawing, mural, or through these scintillating, powerful Disease Thrower sculptures.


Informative Text


Esta es una traducción del texto original en inglés.

Hola, mi nombre es Larry Ossei-Mensah, y tengo el placer y el honor de colaborar con Guadalupe Maravilla en esta increíble exposición, Purring Monsters with Mirrors on Their Backs (Monstruos Ronroneando con Espejos en sus Espaldas).

Monstruos Ronroneando con Espejos en sus Espaldas presenta esculturas, pinturas y murales. La maestría de Guadalupe Maravilla en esta exposición y tener la oportunidad de colaborar me ha enseñado la importancia del arte como herramienta de sanación, de autodescubrimiento, pero también de minería de recuerdos.

La exposición también me enseñó sobre la importancia de la colaboración. La colaboración para él es parte de su ADN. No es algo que sea de la boca para afuera. Es parte de lo que hace que su práctica sea única, refrescante y poderosa, y que es imperativo para él adoptar un enfoque inclusivo, ya sea centrándose en migrantes e inmigrantes, sobrevivientes de cáncer u otras personas y comunidades que históricamente han sido empujadas a los márgenes.

Su trabajo es una plataforma de bienvenida, un tributo, una especie de altar para todas estas diversas comunidades y las involucra de maneras que se sienten increíbles, asombrosas y especiales.

Al colaborar con Guadalupe Maravilla en esta exposición, aprendí que la importancia de la visibilidad y el reconocimiento de las personas que han sido empujadas a los márgenes no necesariamente siempre se ponen a la vanguardia. Este trabajo es una celebración de esos individuos y de todas las cosas que nos hacen humanos.

Otra cosa que he aprendido al colaborar con Guadalupe es cómo mirarme a mí mismo de manera diferente. Como ghanés-estadounidense de primera generación, veo gran parte de mi experiencia familiar en el trabajo que comparte con nosotros y el diálogo y la conversación que hemos tenido antes de abrir esta exhibición en el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Denver.

Y creo que mucha gente verá una parte de sí misma en esta exposición, ya sea a través de una pintura de Retablo, ya sea a través de un mural, un dibujo, un mural de Tripa Chuca, o a través de estas centelleantes y poderosas esculturas de Disease Thrower (Lanzadores de Enfermedades).


In Case You Missed It: Art & Collective Healing: Artist Talk with Guadalupe Maravilla

Photo of Guadalupe Maravilla



Photo by Steve Benisty


Combining sculpture, painting, performative acts, and installation, Guadalupe Maravilla (b. 1976) grounds his transdisciplinary practice in activism and healing. Engaging a wide variety of visual cultures, Maravilla’s work is autobiographical, referencing his unaccompanied, undocumented migration to the United States due to the Salvadoran Civil War. Culling the entangled fictional and autobiographical genealogies of border crossing accounts, Maravilla nurtures collective narratives of trauma into celebrations of perseverance and humanity. Maravilla currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and his MFA from Hunter College in New York. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Olso; and the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, among others. Additionally, he has performed and presented his work at the Whitney Museum of American 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; Performa 11, New York; Performa 13, New York;, Shelly & Donald Rubin Foundation, New York; the Drawing Center, New York; SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, Houston, Texas; and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Missouri, among others. Maravilla has received numerous awards and fellowships including; Joan Mitchell Foundation Inaugural Fellowship, 2021; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation & Ford Foundation Latinx Artist Fellowship, 2021; Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, 2019; Soros Fellowship: Art Migration and Public Space, 2019; MAP Fund Grant, 2019; Franklin Furnace Fund, 2018; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship, 2018; Art Matters Fellowship, 2017; Creative Capital Grant, 2016; The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Award 2003, among others. He has also completed residencies with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York; SOMA, Mexico City; Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Maine; and the Drawing Center, New York.