The Rapidian

Sotir Davidhi: An ArtPrize Artist Profile

/Sotir Davidhi

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/Sotir Davidhi

by Becky Spaulding, Daniel Heeren, and RuthMarie Sarros

A soft breeze brushes through the grass beside the Grand River, over which a ripple travels gently toward the shore. Rich autumn colors of orange, red, green, brown, and gold sprinkle over Grand Rapids this time of year, and you can’t help but marvel at its beauty. Neither can ArtPrize contestant, Sotir Davidhi.

“Summer does not have so much variety… in fall you find [colors] everywhere,” he said of Grand Rapids.

Sotir Davidhi is a man born and raised in Albania, who has spent time in Greece, has traveled across the United States from Chicago to Florida to Indianapolis to Mackinac Island, finally to set his home in Grand Rapids, citing its magnificent coloring, parks, and river sites.

“I started painting when I was six,” he said. “When somebody helped me with an alphabet book. I was amazed by the images I saw, so I started copying them. The first was a bus.”

Inspired even at such a young age, Sotir Davidhi carried art with him throughout his early childhood.

Moving on from buses, he studied painting and theater set design, “the art of life,” in high school. He was one of the few to graduate from Liceu Atristic Jakov Xoxa in Albania, and moved to Greece shortly after he received his diploma. Since his status in Greece was not exactly legal, he was forced to make money taking any job that was offered to him at first, but always kept his art going. Eventually, he started working as a muralist and was able to make his living this way.

In 2005, Sotir Davidhi decided to try his luck in the States, and he set off with a clean canvas and brushes in hand to America. With no money and only a very limited understanding of the English language, the newcomer had a difficult time adjusting to his new land. Determined to make something of himself, he enrolled first in Davenport, primarily because it was the only school which would accept him with no English. However, eager and determined, Davidhi completed the English as a Second Language program in just a year and a half.

Five years later, now a Grand Rapids Community College graduate, Davidhi continues painting. His strong passion and dedication to art keep him in front of the canvas. Like any job, it’s not something he wants to do all the time, but it’s something he loves, so he always comes back to it.

“There are days that I don’t feel like working at all, and days that I forget to sleep,” he said.

Davidhi has used many different mediums – oil and acrylic paint, charcoal, colored pencils, and water colors being among them. His works vary from murals to business logo designs, but he said that he loves to paint landscapes. He took classes at Grand Rapids Community College, and there he began using water colors, now one of his favorite mediums.

“Water color has been very challenging for me,” he said, but this motivated him to keep using it until he got it right.

Davidhi defines an artist as someone who imitates nature. He paraphrases Salvador Dali, stating, “Somebody who does not imitate or copy anything has nothing to offer.”

Davidhi may draw little monetary gain from his efforts, but he simply wants to get his artwork out to the people. Davidhi has no other job. He is not a person who happens to create art. He is an artist.

His love for impressionist and post-impressionist artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh can be seen in the landscapes he paints. The fall colors in Michigan inspire Davidhi.

“They are more vibrant here than in Greece,” he said. “And you don’t have to go far to find them…they are everywhere.”

There is always a camera close to him just in case he drives by a scene that he simply has to paint.

“I paint images that attract me,” he said. “I take a picture when I see something and I get the feeling, the excitement, and I try to bring back that feeling when I paint it.”

In 2009, Davidhi was a part of the first ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids. Three of his paintings were displayed at 53 Commerce, facing a television set. When asked where he placed in the competition, Davidhi shrugged and said, “Just being a part of it is like being a winner.” His art will also be available for viewing during ArtPrize this year; he has entered five of his water color paintings.

Sotir Davidhi embodies the purest and truest definition of what it means to be an artist. One can feel through his paintings that Davidhi has a great love, passion, connection, and thanks for the beauty that the world, in the most basic and pure sense, has to offer. The viewer can feel his appreciation for the Earth’s beauty, his unceasing passion for his work, and his fascination with the human being’s capacity to create and appreciate art both as a skill and for its own sake. His work will be displayed at Grand Rapids Community College Spectrum Theatre during Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize event.

Disclosure: This article was a group effort, written by five students together.

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