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Portraits of Cuban Immigrants by Photography Alumna Alina Marin-Bliach Close Out Season at MCCC Gallery

7/6/15


West Windsor, N.J. – A solo photography exhibit by alumna Alina Marin-Bliach '06 (A.F.A., Photography) came to the MCCC Gallery in June. Entitled “A Voyage of Many,” the exhibit featured images and stories of 50 Cuban immigrants over the past half century in their new American homeland. Each environmental portrait was accompanied by a printed excerpt from extensive interviews Bliach conducted with her subjects.

Marin-Bliach notes that many of those who came to the United States in the 1960s are now in their 70s, 80s and 90s and most of their stories remain unrecorded.

"It is because of the advancing ages of many of these people that I felt a need to photograph not only these immigrants, but also those that have come after, and retell their stories of leaving and entering a new country. The people photographed are ordinary people, photographed in their own environment. I asked them to recount their memories prior to leaving Cuba and those memories when they first arrived in the USA. Theirs are the stories of sacrifice, perseverance, and survival in their ultimate quest for freedom," she said.

Since the 1960s more than one million Cubans have immigrated to the United States.

For Marin-Bliach, the show had strong personal connections. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1960, she emigrated to the United States in 1968. Beneath her self-portait, which she included in the show, she recalls her reaction to her arrival as an 7-year-old: "I looked at him [the man getting off the airplane in front of her], got on my knees and also kissed the ground. Like all those pictured on the walls of the gallery, I too have vivid memories of my journey to the United States, and include my own story.

A resident of West Windsor, she received a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Long Island University in 1986. Unable to stay away from her life’s true passion, she returned to school at Mercer to study photography In 2006, Marin-Bliach is currently completing her master’s degree at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Marin-Bliach says the project, which is counting towards the completion of her master's degree, was a labor of love that has extended over two years. "It started with a few people and then they referred me to other people. I really got to know the people I photographed as I worked with them."

According to Gallery Director Dylan Wolfe, the show was highly popular. "We had a great turnout at the Saturday night opening reception and a steady flow of visitors throughout the exhibit's run. It was a pleasure for the Gallery to host a show that breaks new ground and was so well conceived and executed by one of our own alumni," he said, adding that MCCC art students took a real interest in the show; Ivana Airo, who just completed her freshman year studying Photography at Mercer, took the photos at the reception.

Marin-Bliach at the opening reception next to her self-portrait. Photo by Ivana Airo.
Zoe, right, whose portrait was included in the show, attended the opening reception. Photo by Ivana Airo.

Gisela, left, another portrait subject, attended the opening. Photo by Ivana Airo.

 

The show has attracted a lot of attention outside the college. In addition to several articles that appeared in the local media, she was interviewed by Univision TV journalist Victor J. Solano for a segment called "Aca Entre Nos," which aired during the nightly news program Noticias 41 in early July.

Marin-Bliach has also been contacted by several galleries interested in exhibiting the show. She hopes it will eventually become part of a permanent collection at a university or museum. She is currently working on a book on the exhibit.

Marin-Bliach's body of work, which previously was mostly concentrated on landscapes, has been noticed and rewarded. She was selected as a finalist in Best of Photography 2013; earned first and second prizes in the Pollux Awards; and earned merit awards in Professional Photographers of America International competitions. She was the Hasselblad Photographer of the Month. Her work has been exhibited at the Borges Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina; The Room in Soho, NYC; Essex County College in Newark, NJ; Arts Council of Princeton in Princeton; Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ; Phillips Mill in New Hope, PA; Gallery 125 in Trenton, NJ; Artworks in Trenton; Passaic County College in Pa1erson, NJ; and Art Along the Fence in Hoboken. in addition to this latest exhibit, she has been featured at the MCCC Gallery as part of several group shows.

Marin-Bliach says her study of photography at the college level has been a gift. "Photography has always been more than a passion. It is who I am. It is an extension of myself and because of that intimacy, I give great thought to where I point my camera lens. Photography is the means by which I can share my vision with the world."Since earning her MCCC degree, Marin-Bliach has had own business, Alina B Studios. In addition to portrait and commercial photography, she has taught group and private workshops and tutorials, designed and created fine art books for publication and sale, and done public speaking engagements.

When she decided to continue her academic career last year, Marin-Bliach found that her MCCC degree, combined with her B.S. in Pharmacy, years of professional experience, and multiple awards and other accolades, all added up to getting accepted into SCAD's online graduate program, which she is completing online. "I passed my qualifying review about six months ago and I am hoping to complete my Masters of Fine Arts in Photography in December," she said, adding that the MFA in Photography is 90 credits.

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