THE INTERVIEW: Christina Marie Arza

"Little Havana is special to me for so many reasons."

"Little Havana is special to me for so many reasons."

Cuban-American photographer, Christina Marie Arza, curated a selection of her spirited works from the series "To Solitude" in the Living Room space at Life House, Little Havana. To ring in Miami’s Art Basel 2021, we talked with the local artist about her work that reflects the mindset of nostalgia, while celebrating her cultural roots and exploring her identity as a woman.

The Setting: Tell us about your background - what initially pointed you towards photography?

It was after interning in New York City during the summer of 2010. I was 20 years old and studying to become a journalist, but fell into an obsession with photography. I came home to Miami, bought my first film camera on eBay, taught myself to shoot, and created a Tumblr to share my work. I chose photography as a means to live, but also as a way to document my life.

Tiffany and the Willow Tree, Rhinebeck, NY, 2021

The Plot: What do you HOPE to show or reflect in your photography?

I strive to show the beauty of nature and life. I find life to be a great mystery, so I use photography to understand myself as a woman, and to investigate the cultures and people around me. I’ve been able to photograph people I may have never met, and traveled to places I may have never visited if it weren’t for my vocation. It’s really been a gift in my life that I am forever grateful for.

Replication #1: My Abuela Nidia, Cuba, 1956 & Self Portrait, NY, 2014

The Characters: Are there any artists that inspire you right now?

Currently I am very inspired by the work of filmmaker, Terrence Malick. For me, film is one of the highest forms of storytelling, and Malick's work is poetic, exploring themes that resonate the splendor of nature and human existence. I am also very inspired by the art and life of French painter, Pierre Soulages. He is 101 years old and has been painting for 75 years, and married to his wife, Colette, for 79 years. His life as a dedicated man and artist motivates me.

Terrence Malick’s Badlands, 1973

The Conflict: What do you do if you hit a creative block?

If I hit a creative block, I turn to self-reflection. I try to be patient and understanding with myself. I will listen to classical music, spend time with family, light a candle, water my plants, buy and photograph some flowers, go to the beach, write, pray, meditate, practice yoga, read in the sun, or watch a favorite film.

Lilac Rose, Miami, FL, 2021

The Theme: Your series “To Solitude” is featured as an art installation at Life House, Little Havana. What is the common thread connecting the selection of photos?

I was invited to stay in Rhinebeck, New York for the month of August, where I created the series, To Solitude. I brought 10 rolls of film along with my Hasselblad and Canon AE1. The series is named after a poem by John Keats, where the speaker describes how he intends to face solitude somewhere peaceful, surrounded by nature. His sonnet reflects moments from my time in the Catskills, spending afternoons in the quarry at Leeds, photographing places and strangers I encountered. The work is in a way my own personal ode to the beauty of nature.

Tiffany and the Boy at the Quarry, Leeds, NY, 2021

Point of View: What do you think makes the Little Havana neighborhood special? Do you have any favorite spots in the area?

The Little Havana neighborhood is special to me for so many reasons - it’s the first place my Father’s family lived when they came from Cuba in the 1960s. I was raised visiting my Abuela’s house on NW 8th street which was across from the Orange Bowl Stadium, a landmark that no longer stands, where I proudly watched my Father coach a football game. A few of my favorite places in Little Havana include Versailles (some of the best cuban food), the Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, and most recently, Terras rooftop. I think this bar & restaurant has one of the most majestic cityscape views of Miami. The city seems to sparkle from Terras.

Abuela & I at her Home in Little Havana, by Brittany Carmichael | Terras at Life House, Little Havana

See Christina on Instagram at @arziee.

Visit her photography installation at Life House, Little Havana: 528 SW 9th Ave, Miami, FL.

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