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Profile: Mirza Davitaia: A Good Place to Paint

July 4, 2014 by Phil Tarley in Art with 0 Comments

MIRZA DAVITAIA’S life’s journey epitomizes the struggle many artists face to reinvent themselves when they move their lives to Los Angeles. The plans, hopes and artful fantasies of the newly arrived so resonate with the spirit of this magazine. The promise of creative and financial opportunities that Los Angeles proffers is one that seduces the innovative and the visionary who want to come.

After all the winter fairs and non-stop gallery offerings, the city of Angeles hums with potent pop-ups and brilliant openings that stretch from Chung King Road, maneuver through West Hollywood and Culver City and stop at lands end, in Venice Beach. So much art and so many artists. I tend to take our burgeoning scene for granted. That is until I meet someone like Mirza, who told me his story. I always say that everyone is like a jukebox and if you press the right buttons, we all have one good song to sing or story to tell. Mirza has many. His passage to Los Angeles makes me think about our community and what it means to artists who dream of coming here.

Davitaia has been painting for as long as he can remember. Paint ran colors in his veins and his father’s too. Back when he was a boy, Davitaia Sr. ensconced his painter-son in the Elementary School of Art, in Tbilisi, Georgia, when it was part of the Soviet Union. He went on to study animation, developing a taste for narrative film. Then shortly after the Berlin Wall fell, Mirza enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg to paint. It was in his blood, and it was a most magnificent obsession.

Mirza Davitaia 2014 - Mixed Media on Canvas

Mirza Davitaia 2014 – Mixed Media on Canvas

Painting, painting, painting…after six years of art school in the West, Davitaia returned to a shattered Georgia, then newly emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Block. As a literate, multilingual Western-educated, college graduate, he was drafted to serve his country – in Georgia’s Parliament. 

Being in the right place at the right time can be both good and bad. He was re-elected numerous times and rose to become Georgia’s Deputy Commissioner of Culture. Government service cost him. There was never any time to paint and little for his wife and children. For eight years, the increasing demands of a potent, international, political career left him lamenting the loss of his artist’s pallet. When I look at photos of him from that era, I can see it in his eyes – sadness and a wistful yearning for an existence that was something more.

In 2009, Mirza Davitaia used his personal life experience of Soviet Georgia’s bitter battles with Russia and his new found contacts as Deputy Cultural Commissioner to produce MISHA VERSUS MOSCOW, THE BATTLE FORGEORGIA’S FUTURE, a USA Republic of Georgia co-production. It gave him his filmmaking legs. Then in 2011, Davitaia produced 5 DAYS OF WAR, a widely distributed Hollywooden feature film that he got Renny Harlin to direct. Harlin and Davitaia brought a notable cast of actors, and high-end production values to a war-torn country that was happy, hopeful, and wanting to help Davitaia tell their story. It was during post-production on his war movie that Mirza made his first trip to Los Angeles. Our city’s vigorous international art scene and our cinematic raisin d’être delighted and inspired him.

Over brunch at Mel’s Diner on the Sunset Strip, Davitaia sipped on a Cherry Coke and paused thoughtfully over his cheeseburger and fries. Then, with the most direct, hopeful and triumphant look, he told me quite simply, “I’ve come here to Los Angeles to paint and to make movies.”


Mirza Davitaia opens his first Los Angeles show at Gloria Delson Contemporary Art Gallery on April 1, and runs through May 1, 2014. Below is a selected list of his solo and group exhibitions.

2013 Hamburg Art Fair by Gallery Brunno Massa, Paris, France
2004 Annual group shows of the Georgian Artist Union, National Gallery 2007 of Georgia, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia
2001 Solo Show, Kulturdach, Nuremberg, Germany
2000 Group Show Artistikum Gallery, Nuremberg, Germany 1995 Solo Show, Zeltner Schloss Gallery, Nuremberg, Germany. 


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Phil Tarley

About Phil Tarley

Phil Tarley is a fellow of the American Film Institute, an artist member of the Los Angeles Art Association and writes about contemporary art, pop culture and photography for Fabrik Magazine. He curates at the A C Gallery in Los Angeles and founded Round Hole Square Peg, a biannual, international survey of LGBTQ photography shown at the Photo LA. Tarley is also a critical essayist for Katharine T. Carter & Associates, an art advisory service that  helps artists obtain museum exhibitions. His personal series of political and ethnographic videos is housed in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library and has screened in film festivals and museums like the American Film Institute,and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 2009, under his nom de porn, Phil St. John, Tarley was inducted into the Gay Porn Hall of Fame for his 20-year producing and directing career. His writing and photography have also appeared in the LA Times, the LA Weekly, The WOW Report, Adventure Journal, the Advocate, Frontiers, Adult Video News, Genre, Instinct and American Photo Magazine. His book, Going down On Cuba: Notes from An Underground Traveler,  is slated to be published later in the year by Fabrik Press.  

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