‘Secret Doors’ photo art exhibit opens new chapter for City College student

The exhibit by RTVF student Nathaly Alvizures runs through May 31


Artist Nathaly Alvizures pins her artist biography in the middle of her photo exhibit at the Mission Valley Branch Library activity room March 02, 2023. Photo by Susana Serrano/City Times Media

Susana Serrano, Managing Editor

Walking into the activity room at the Mission Valley Branch Library, the first things you notice are the empty walls and open space.

In the middle of the room, Nathaly Alvizures, a single mother of five and San Diego City College student, prepared for her first photo exhibition. 

She stood next to a table with a large box holding her prints while she spoke to a friend there to record a video of her.

As Alvizures opened the box to see her prints for the first time, she got emotional, wiping tears from her eyes.

“After everything I’ve been through,” Alvizures said, “I can’t believe I’m here.”

Alvizures wipes her artist bio before pinning it to the wall.
Nathaly Alvizures cleans her artist biography before pinning it up to the wall at the Mission Valley Branch Library activity room March 02, 2023. Photo by Susana Serrano/City Times

She slowly organized her photos against the wall, making sure she liked the order they were in.

As Alvizures pinned her photos to the wall, she reflected on the life struggles that inspired her work.

Her photography has a tone of whimsical darkness, with a fairy girl holding teeth, a man with a balloon head mixed in a balloon bouquet and a child sitting in the middle of an empty cell staring at the blank wall.

All the models, Alvizures said, are her children.

Alvizures’ photography journey was inspired by her life struggles.

“Not only now that I’m an adult, but I went through a lot of abuse when I was a child, every type of abuse that you can inflict to a child I went through,” said Alvizures, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala when she was 11.

To cope, Alvizures began to express herself through different art forms.

“I started with poetry, that was my outlet when I was little,” she said, “and then I started painting. Now I’m a photographer and a filmmaker.”

Alvizures describes her work as conceptual art.

“It’s open for interpretation,” she said. “Whatever the viewer can feel, whatever the print talks to them, and they can feel different than what I feel it’s okay. That’s why it’s open for interpretation.”

Nathaly Alvizures is pinning the artist description to one of her art pieces.
Nathaly Alvizures is pinning an artist description under one of her art pieces as she prepares for her exhibition at the Mission Valley Branch Library March 16, 2023. Photo by Susana Serrano/City Times

After leaving an abusive relationship, Alvizures started to express her feelings through art while living in a domestic violence shelter with her five children. 

During that time she created one of her favorite pieces of the exhibition called Drowning.

“It’s just an image of me kind of getting up and at the same time, I’m trying to reach out for myself that’s buried in a hole underneath water,” Alvizures said.

“I wanted to tell my story through this photograph and without saying anything, without saying those words that hurt me.”

While in the shelter she also started her educational journey, beginning with earning her high school diploma.

She would pass City College on her way home and always wanted to be part of the school.

“I always wanted to come here,” Alvizures said. “I always wanted to be a City College student, and call myself a City girl and here I am.”

Alvizures hopes her art will make people relate to her journey.

“I want them to see me,” Alvizures said. “I want them to see my struggle.”

But more than that, she wants people to relate to her work.

“I also want them to see how far I have come,” she said. “You know, because I came from nothing. I came from a very poor family back in my country, and to be able to present something like this to people, I just want them to feel identified with me.”

The exhibit “Secret Doors” is free to the public from Monday to Saturday in the activity room at the Mission Valley Branch Library. The exhibit will be available until May 31.