Artistic Milestone

Desert Art Collection marks 20th anniversary with silent auction fundraiser

Marcia Gawecki Arts & Entertainment 0 Comments


Creating a portfolio of artists to fill an art gallery with their work can be as much concerted effort as happenstance.

Sculptor Aiko Morioka needed help in turning a small sculpture into a large one for a commercial client, and sought out Desert Art Collection Director Jana Koroczynsky in Palm Desert.

“On our website, we say that we do art consulting, but it’s usually to help commercial clients such as architects, developers and corporations find art, not really art consulting for artists,” Koroczynsky says. “But there was something about her, so I agreed to meet her for lunch.”

Morioka had been a financial consultant, owning five businesses, when she became sick, and ended up in the hospital. As part of her therapy, she began kneading silly putty, and turned them into small figurative sculptures. That experience led her to study sculpture from private instructors in Italy and Vermont before making it her new career.

VIDEO: Director Jana Koroczynsky shows Toronto artist Markian Olynyk's work.

When she came to see Koroczynsky at Desert Art Collection, Morioka needed help in turning a small bronze figure into one three times its size. The two worked together to achieve that goal, and Morioka has been with the gallery ever since, creating small and medium-sized figurative bronzes.

The Desert Art Collection, a fine art gallery and sculpture garden, will celebrate 20 years on Feb. 5 in Palm Desert. The event will feature a preview of works by Aida Schneider, as well as small 12×12 paintings specially done by gallery artists for a silent auction fundraiser to benefit the Hanson House, a temporary shelter for families of critically ill patients at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

“These small pieces are a great way to buy from established artists without a big investment,” Koroczynsky says.

The sculpture garden at Desert Art Collection.

When Mike Fedderly started the gallery in the mid-century compound in 1996, he only dedicated two walls to showing artwork for his clients. Michael Nisperos and Michael Battaglia were among the first artists. Battaglia’s “Butterfly” is on the front cover of the Desert Art Collection's multi-page color anniversary brochure. Its plaster on burlap was inspired by a lifetime of passion about the ancient world that reflects Battaglia’s travels across the U.S., Europe, and Africa.

With skills that he’s developed over 50 years, Battaglia layers paints, powders, glazes, found objects and a variety of other materials to create large-scale textural paintings. He often inscribes words into the plaster, including Christian and indigenous cultural symbols, Biblical texts that are not meant to be read. Most often, the edges are left ragged, so the work looks old, as if it was cut out of an ancient castle or church.

The large, colorful paintings of Michael Nisperos, the other longtime artist at the Desert Art Collection, draw you from every corner of the gallery. The Los Angeles-based artist is an abstract and figurative expressionist whose works reflect contemporary culture. “He won a Masters’ Award for a painting by Armand Hammer Museum,” Koroczynsky adds.

A sculpture by Aiko Morioka, who first came to the gallery looking to turn a small sculpture into a large one for a commercial client.

One-by-one, Koroczynsky has brought in artists to the gallery. Some have taken up to 10 years to come around, such as Toronto artist Markian Olynyk, whose mixed media glass works catch to light to reveal its multi-layers and textures as she walks by.

“I’ve always loved his work since I saw it at another show many years ago,” says Koroczynsky, who came to Desert Art Collection gallery in Palm Desert from eastern Ohio.

Olynyk has created glass installations in airports, hospitals, hotels, and places of worship worldwide. The glass screens at the Desert Art Collection catch the light from every direction, are rare collectibles now that Olynyk is no longer working with glass.

“It’s too hard on his hands now,” Koroczynsky says. “So he’s experimenting with painting.”

A series of small paintings line an interior wall, showing some of the same textures from his glassworks, but with a limited palette.

Besides established artists, the Desert Art Collection introduces new artists with three-day pop-up shows in their main room. “We like to keep things fresh for our growing list of clients,” Koroczynsky says.

Many of the pop-up artists have done well with these short-run shows and have joined the gallery as a result. Joey Brock’s abstract mixed media street art caught her attention because of his unique technique. The original was painted, then printed onto a screen mesh for added texture.

“But the print is the only one available,” she says, pointing to the glass box next to it showcasing the shredded original.

Desert Art Collection, 45-350 San Luis Rey Ave., (across from Pacific Premier Bank), Palm Desert, 760-674-9955;

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