“I love my women, but they’re actually a small part of what I do. I do paintings on canvases, sculptures, site-specific installations. I like the booty girls, but I don’t want to go out like Botero. Much respect, but that’s not me.”
Fila didn’t miss a beat after the real-life Erin dissed his mural. He changed it again, this time putting Shakira’s face on the figure. Later, after he met the woman who would become his wife, he changed it again.
Was it biologist Tiara Thanawastien, whom he married this spring, who asked him to alter the mural?
“My wife is kind of shy and she actually doesn’t like me painting her all the time,” Fila says. “You would think it would please her that I keep painting her, but she feels like I’m putting her on blast.”
Ladies in White
Fila even managed to bring Tiara into the mural he painted in Little Havana (on Southwest 15th Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets) in tribute to the Damas de Blanco, the Ladies in White who peaceably march in Cuba to bring attention to the plight of their jailed dissident sons, husbands and other relatives.
“My wife is from Thailand, so even my Ladies in White look a little Asian,” says Fila. He says he was moved by the bravery of the demonstrators, who are often harassed, beaten, arrested.
“I have always despised Fidel Castro. He has affected so many people in Miami. He has affected me. I was so inspired reading about the Ladies in White. And I was so repulsed by the fact that they were being brutalized. These women are angels. They’re the best answer to everything that happens in Cuba.”
Fila had worked in a Wynwood studio for several years but was wooed to Little Havana by urban developer Bill Fuller, a Cuban American who with partners is revitalizing chunks of the downtown/Brickell/Little Havana area.
“I worked on getting Daniel to Little Havana for five years, and I consider it a major coup that he’s now part of the neighborhood,” says Fuller, whose holdings include the historic Tower Hotel at 1450 SW Seventh St. — currently under renovation — and the property at 729 Southwest First Ave. that houses the popular bar Blackbird Ordinary. Fuller and partners are also working to help add fuel to the ’hood’s developing art scene.
“Daniel is 100 percent Miami. He’s passionate about the city and he’s making his mark here. He represents a younger generation that embraces Miami’s multiculturalism and doesn’t create divisions based on language or ethnicity. This is a new Miami generation that is completely unique and only now starting to come into its own,” Fuller says.
Fila, meanwhile, is focused on further developing his art. His first works he threw onto the walls of abandoned buildings, dodging cops and traveling with a crew that included DASH alum Daniel Arsham, whose career as a New York-based artist is on the rise.
“Back then, there was a stigma to doing graffiti, but now every business wants to pay you put paint on their wall,” says Fila, who with Miami artist Claudio Picasso painted a mural for the lobby of South Beach’s glam SLS Hotel in 2012. “I’m happy about where I am now, but I miss the old days on the streets. You’d walk into an abandoned warehouse with your paint cans and there were brilliant colors floor to ceiling. It was like a thousand other artists had been there before you. It was magic. For me it was way better than Disney World.”
Except that as a high school kid, Fila sometimes got beat up by bigger guys on the scene.
“But in a way I’m kind of glad for those beatdowns, because they made me tougher. They make it easier now to deal with the clients who don’t want to pay. They don’t actually try to punch your face, but what some of them try to get away with is almost worse.”