Art Review: Art auction is hosted by a voyager from afar

The public events that take place under the banner of America Legacy Fine Arts — like the California Art Club’s annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition and the recent effort by Eric Merrell to open the “External and Contemplative” gallery show — have a reputation. ALFA and the CAC functions are known for their classy cachet, attention to detail and smooth operation. Many people contribute to these efforts, and now one of them is mounting her own event.

Irina Panasyuk earned her MA in Art and Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere from USC. With a background in public relations, for the last few years she has been a trusted staff member of ALFA’s founder and director Elaine Adams. On Friday, Panasyuk hosts an art auction, “Imaginary Places,” at Glendale’s Gauchos Village Brazilian Steakhouse.

It’s Panasyuk’s maiden voyage as an art presenter, and the 32-year-old didn’t reach this point by accident. A native of Siberia, she danced as a child but always had a passion for all of the arts. As her degree indicates, she’s involved in bringing art and people together. “I’ve been interested in art in the public sphere for a long time,” she states, speaking from ALFA’s Pasadena office. “I’ve thought very hard about how to bring art to people, how to make it more accessible to them, and how to motivate them to go see art.”

She’s collated work by eleven local artists and one New Yorker for a show she calls “Imaginary Places.” Her own Conflux Arts firm is putting the auction on, with the help of the ChamoLand company. “This is my first independent event of this scale,” she reveals, " I had work in mind for the auction that I call classic contemporary art. I’m responsible for the selection of the pieces and the organizational details. I’ve worked with ChamoLand on other events before, and they’re helping with the production.”

Presumably it took some grit to begin in Siberia and wind up in Los Angeles. “There’s a saying: ‘Siberian people are not those who are afraid of the cold, but they’re those who know how to dress warm.’ I was born in the former Soviet Union and I traveled to the other republics,” she says, “but there’s no place like Los Angeles and the great California weather. I love all the different cultural opportunities in this city.”

Two artists in the show have never met Panasyuk; she saw their work and contacted them. Perhaps it’s their individuality that loosely unites them in this grouping. Gwen Samuels makes combinations of hand-stitched fabric and her own photography. “I’m kind of a hybrid,” she says. “I have a textiles background and I combine the handmade with the technical. It’s craft and fine art.” Speaking of some stitched pieces on the Conflux Arts website, she indicates: “Those come from an interesting place. Some of those materials had been in a fire and I stitched them together with the photo images.”

Lynne McDaniel makes evocative soft-focus paintings. “I use landscape,” the Santa Monica-based artist explains, “as a metaphor for feelings. I’m not just painting what’s in front of me — I’m more interested in what you don’t see. They’re explorations of time and space. I’m exploring myself but I’m trying to make the personal the universal.”

Ten percent of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to the U.S. Marines’ Toys For Tots charity. “All of my events will benefit some kind of charity,” Panasyuk says. “I hope this event builds the Conflux Arts brand name, but more importantly, I hope it helps to bring art to a new audience.”

“I believe that the key to making the world better,” Panasyuk advises, “is through culture and education.”


What: “Imaginary Places” Art Auction

Where: Gauchos Village Brazilian Steakhouse, 135 N. Maryland Ave., Glendale

When: Friday, Dec. 4, 6 to 9 p.m.

More info: (310) 795-2752,


KIRK SILSBEE writes about jazz and culture for Marquee.