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Art Documentary Music

Through Totemic Sculptures and Sound Art, Guadalupe Maravilla Explores the Therapeutic Power of Indigenous Ritual

August 11, 2021

Grace Ebert

In 1984, eight-year-old Guadalupe Maravilla left his family and joined a group of other children fleeing their homes in El Salvador. The Central American country was in the midst of a brutal civil war, a profoundly traumatic experience that’s left an indelible impact on the artist and one that guides his broad, multi-disciplinary practice to this day.

Now based in Brooklyn, Maravilla works across painting, sculpture, and sound-based performances all veiled with autobiography, whether informed by the Mayan architecture and stone totems that surrounded him as a child or his cancer diagnosis as a young adult. His pieces are predominately therapeutic and rooted in Indigenous ritual and mythology, recurring themes the team at Art21 explores in a new documentary.

 

“Guadalupe Maravilla & the Sound of Healing” follows the artist as he prepares for his solo exhibition on view through September 6 at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. Titled Planeta Abuelx, or Grandparent Planet—Maravilla expands on the often-used idea of Mother Nature to broaden its scope—the outdoor show is comprised of the artist’s trademark Disease Throwers, towering headdresses and shrines made of recycled aluminum. Allusions to Central American culture bolster the monumental works, with imprints of corn cobs, wooden toys, and other found objects planted throughout.

Covering the surrounding grass are chalky white markings, a signature component of the artist’s practice that delineate every space where he installs a piece. The abstract patterns evoke Tripa Chuca, one of Maravilla’s favorite childhood games that involves players drawing lines between corresponding numbers to create new intertwined motifs.

 

In Planeta Abuelx, Maravilla pairs his visual works with meditative performances that are based on the sound baths he used for pain management while undergoing chemotherapy. These healing therapies are designed to reduce anxiety and tension that often trigger stress-induced diseases. Using gongs and glass vessels, the palliative remedy has been the foundation of workshops the artist hosts for undocumented immigrants and others dealing with cancer that more deeply connect his totemic artworks to the viewers.

“Having a community that has gone through similar experiences can be really empowering,” he says. “Making these elaborate Disease Throwers is not just about telling a story from my past, but it’s also about how this healing ritual can continue in the future, long after I’m gone.”

If you’re in New York, Maravilla is hosting a sound bath to mark the close of Planeta Abuelx on September 4, and you can see more of his multivalent projects on Instagram. For a larger archive of documentaries exploring the lives and work of today’s most impactful artists, like this visit to Wangechi Mutu’s Nairobi studio, check out Art21’s site.

 

 

 



Art Illustration

Sentrock Captures the Sights of Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood in a New Series About Mental Health

June 3, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Sentrock, shared with permission

In honor of Mental Health Month this May, Chicago artist Joseph Perez, who works as Sentrock, created an illustrated series celebrating the people and scenes around his studio in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. “I started doing it just for myself, to take an hour or two and share my thoughts or reflections for that day or the day prior,” he tells Colossal.

Lively, expressive, and deeply empathetic, the resulting illustrations draw on Sentrock’s background as a graffiti artist and his connection to those around him. They tell a story about the neighborhood that’s historically been rich with Latinx culture and portray the sights and experiences shared by the community through a distinctly personal lens. The artist explains:

I started allowing myself to reflect on the past, present, the current situations I found myself in. I allowed myself to reflect on my everyday life, whether boring, exciting, or just my imagination of the moment. I started to capture the people outside my studio, whether friends or strangers. My purpose for this was to initiate a connection with the people around me, the community.

Sentrock began with reference photos of friends, family, and community members before reinterpreting them in bright, vivid renditions of his signature bird character. Usually depicted as a beaked mask, the recurring image is Sentrock’s analogy “to humanity: a person who is able to find or escape to their freedom by placing them in a different reality.” In the new works, the character travels from person to person, sometimes worn by kids skateboarding down 18th Street and others by the artist himself, like in the moving portrait of him and his mother.

Head to Instagram to see the full series and original images, and if you’re in Chicago, keep an eye out for the designs, which Sentrock plans to wheat paste around the city.

 

Portrait of the artist with his mother

Self-portrait

 

 



Art History Photography

150,000 Hearts Representing Lives Lost to Coronavirus in the UK Line the COVID Memorial Wall in London

April 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All photos © Henri Calderon for Colossal

Nearly 500 meters of small, red hearts will soon cover an expanse of concrete facing the River Thames in London. Now dubbed the National COVID Memorial Wall, the poignant display publicly commemorates the 150,000 lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom so far. Each heart represents one victim, with short messages of grief, love, and remembrance scribed by loved ones in their centers. It takes about ten minutes to walk by the entirety of the project, which serves as a staggering reminder of the virus’s devastation.

Coordinated by COVID-19 Bereaved Families For Justice, the two-meter-high wall is situated between the Westminster and Lambeth bridges, opposite the Houses of Parliament. According to The Guardian, Matt Fowler helms the ongoing project, which he began a few weeks ago by painting 15,000 hearts on the facade. His father died from the virus last April. “When you see all the hearts and think what each one represents, it’s absolutely frightening,” Fowler says.

Organizers still are raising money for supplies to complete all 150,000 hearts—although official government statistics currently reflect 149,000 deaths, which is the largest loss in Europe—that volunteers will continue to paint to account for all victims. Talks are also in the works about preserving the memorial to ensure that it’s a permanent fixture in London.

This past weekend, photographer Henri Calderon captured images for Colossal that document the memorial’s progress, which you can see below.

 

 

 



Dance

A 9-Year-Old Dancer Grooves to an Intensely Choreographed Routine and Clocks 10,000 Steps in Just Three Minutes

January 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

It’d be difficult for most of us to move as gracefully as nine-year-old Lilyana Ilunga, but a new campaign by the Swedish nonprofit Generation Pep just wants to get young people on their feet. Set to a revamped version of a 2007 track by French EDM musicians Justice, “DANCE 10000” showcases the young prodigy, who flaunts her moves from the second she wakes up and slips on one of the many pairs of sneakers strewn about her room. Ilunga keeps grooving onto the subway platform, through the halls at school—she even has a quick competition with the janitor—and all the way back to her bedroom, shoes smoking.

Although Ilunga clocking 10,000 steps in mere minutes is slightly exaggerated, Generation Pep released tutorials to guide kids through the intensely choreographed routine. Directed by Filip Nilsson, the campaign was created in response to the World Health Organization’s data that more than 340 million children and young adults are overweight or obese.

 

 

 



Illustration

Life on the Line: 10 Artists Spread Mental Health Awareness Across Toronto's Subway

November 17, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Birdcage” by Marcia Diaz. All images © Twentytwenty Arts, shared with permission

Through an eclectic array of illustrations and photographs, ten Canada-based artists are collaborating in an effort to boost awareness of mental health struggles. Life on the Line is a new public art campaign spearheaded by Twentytwenty Arts that recently installed 200 posters across the Toronto TTC Subway. From portraits to abstract renderings, the vivid works will be on display through January 16, 2021.

Each piece is informed by the artists’ own experiences with mental health issues, including depression, agoraphobia, and anxiety, among others, that the storytelling platform Unsinkable will share throughout the coming weeks. “We hope that this campaign will bring people joy and comfort in an otherwise stressful and anxious time (especially if they have to be on public transit!),” Megan Kee, the director and founder of Twentytwenty Arts, tells Colossal.

If you’re not hopping on the subway in Toronto any time soon, 50 limited-edition prints—which are signed and numbered—of each of the works are available in Twentytwenty Arts’ shop. Seventy-five percent of all sales will be donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Family Outreach and Response Program. You also can follow Twentytwenty Arts’ outreach efforts on Instagram.

 

“The Fatherless Son” by Alexander Robinson

Left: “Load” by Dina Belaia. RIght: “I Remember It All” by Eric Pause

“I’M ON TOP OF IT!” by Faye Harnest

“Empty” by Julieta Christy

Left: “Untitled” by Ramune Luminaire. Right: “Agoraphobia” by Seri Stinson

 

 



Illustration

Imagined, Homebound Characters by Felicia Chiao Illustrate the Struggles of Mental Health

July 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Dissociation.” All images © Felicia Chiao, shared with permission

Felicia Chiao (previously) often channels anxiety and other complex emotions into layered illustrations depicting anonymous characters in a variety of states. The fictional works are connected to narratives of the mundane: a supine character floats in a bathtub, another grasps a coffee mug while peering out the window, and others sit idly. Despite their whimsy, many of the scenes evoke a sense of loneliness and feature a frowning face or dark, foreboding character looming nearby.

Chiao’s recent pieces often confine subjects to their plant-filled homes, a timely adjustment to reflect the current moment. “The drawings help me explore emotions that I don’t know how to describe with words,” the illustrator tells Colossal. She frequently shares her gel pen and Copic marker works on Instagram, where she says she’s grown a supportive, empathetic audience that resonates with her emotive projects.

Chiao currently is part of a group exhibition at Giant Robot and offers prints, stickers, and face masks of her fantastic illustrations on Society6.

 

“Peonies”

“Anxiety Attack”

Left: “Quarantine.” Right: “Bath”

“Better Days”

“Blue”

Left: “Nothing Lasts.” Right: “Strange Feeling”

“Flood”