A reception to honor the artists and celebrate the opening of The Spring Art Exhibition will take place At Bistango in Irvine on Saturday, March 16th, from 3 to 5 P.M. Open to the public.

Spring brings a fresh look to the countryside and to Bistango. You will enter the spacious Atrium Building in Irvine to be enveloped by a different atmosphere, where art from Southern California and from around the world compliment the superb cuisine and select wines. New and unique images will make your mind soar and you will toast to the surrealism of Paul Bond. You will hear the rallying cry in the figurative works of Zimbabwean Roger Gordon’s elephants trumpeting to save our planet. French artist Veronica Schmitt’s colorful snapshots of life bring light and invite speculation. Argentine Norma Samuelson splashes details across her work with color pencils that talk to even the youngest and sometimes disenfranchised art lovers of the world, including the orphans of Tijuana. Armenian artist Samvel Sargisyan and Hambardzum Ghukasyan remind us of the amazing artistic heritage of this legendary country. Bold abstracts and colors project the strength of activist-artist Marie Martin and her just causes, including that of women battling to break the inhumanity of poverty and strife. Fred Stodder’s ceramics, with their sharp edges, bright, bold colors and razor-sharp glazed delineations move to the rhythm of jazz. Mitch Ridder’s eye and camera lens capture the enchantment of Route 66 in a way that has you driving a ‘60 Corvette top-down and singing along to Nat “King” Cole.

Click on an artist’s name below to view more about them.

Paul Bond

Paul Bond’s art lives in the spaces between dreaming and reality. Drawing from the Latin American genre of Magic Realism where symbolic, surreal and fantastic elements blend with realistic atmospheres, they unveil a world were anything is possible. Bon shares the following about his work: “When viewing a scene, object or line in a novel that moves me, my mind’s eye is continually imaging what elements I could introduce or alter to make a grander statement about what I am expecting. The physical world to me is heartbreakingly beautiful and profound. And the best way I know how to channel those deep emotions life inspires in me by adding to it through a world of my own creation. A world intended to both deepen my own life experience and to stir the souls of my fellow travelers.” Bond’s award-winning realism paintings have been featured in galleries, museums and cultural centers, including Gateway Museum in Farmington, NM and the San Diego Art Institute.

His paintings are now in private collections throughout the US, as well as Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Corporate collections include NBC Studios, Scripps Hospital, Marriott Hotels, Hotel EMC2, and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and his art has been featured in many contemporary art publications.

Fred Stodder

Fred Stodder was born in 1957 in Manhattan beach California and began studying ceramics at age 16. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, Irvine. Currently his studio is located in San Juan Capistrano.

His ceramic art is regularly exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country. He is the recipient of numerous awards, appears in many important collections and has been featured in Ceramics Monthly as well as other national arts publications.

Although ceramics is a very ancient art form, Fred Stodder’s work is unlike traditional ceramics in his use of extremely hard edges, bright bold colors, and razor sharp glaze delineation. His work is mostly inspired by architecture, minimalist painting, and jazz music.

Fred Stodder’s ceramic art is created with white earthenware clay and is bisque fired to about 1950 degrees fahrenheit. Multiple underglaze colors are applyed with an airbrush to create areas that are gradating, (often from warm to cool color and from light to dark). Brush on translucent and opaque low fire glazes are used in the solid colored areas.

Mitch Ridder

Twenty-four years as a painter and illustrator, thirty-eight years as an ocean lifeguard and the last eight years as a photojournalist, Mitch Ridder’s training demanded developing an intuitive visual acuity to now capture what he sees photographically.

The foundation of Ridder’s work and artistic strength is his painter’s visual sense of composition with a designers aesthetic, framed through his viewfinder, composing cinematic stories with light and color. Ridder’s passion rivals his vision. Whether pre-shoot strategizing, mapping locations and plotting the sun and moon’s position, rising at 3:00 am to be on location by 5:00, exploring new destinations and cultures, through post-processing, printing and framing, his attention is to detail and will do whatever it takes to get the shot and tell the story.

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, the significance of an event, a decisive moment.” ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Just as a treasure hunter drives to discover and unlock history, Mitch Ridder’s passion is fueled by discovering his own “decisive moments,” where he intuitively fuses subject, light and composition.

“Historic Route 66 is a contrast of desolate beauty and decay. Where classic cars once gleamed, gas pumps used to flow and motel neon glowed, now only their ghosts remain.”

Roger Gordon

Raised in Southern Africa, (Zimbabwe), and then transplanted to the United States as a teenager; Roger has learned to straddle dynamically different worlds and cultures.

He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and continued his studies in painting at the Art Students League in New York City where he studied the Frank Reilly method of painting with Jack Faragasso. Rogers paints in a representational manner. Each painting is built on a foundation of classical training and years of practice. To Roger, imbuing life into a blank canvas or sheet of paper is a seminal process of creation and purpose. Currently, Roger teaches Studio Art at a public high school in Santa Ana.

“Using juxtaposed contrasts of scale, color and texture, I am able to create a compelling image that also makes a statement advocating respect for animals and nature. Elephants are becoming extinct due to illegal poaching; humanity depends on the delicate balance of shared natural resources or else we too will cease to exist. Additionally by destroying animal life we also destroy our own sentient humanity. My painting shows the vulnerable, smooth, skinned human, kneeling while balanced on the trunk of the powerful, wrinkled, ancient beast. She maintains her balance, with the aid of the elephant’s raised trunk; both exist together on the canvas as equal players in my composition”.

“I love animals and nature, and hope that my paintings do their part to raise a universal consciousness to promote respect for our fellow creatures and planet.”



Veronica Schmitt

French artist Veronica Schmitt became a fine art painter shortly after she moved to the US. The exploration of a world that was new to her as well as the discovery of the California impressionist artists had a significant impact on her work. She paints lively and colorful snapshots of life, inviting the viewer to speculate about the story being depicted and suggesting the incredible diversity of our world.

Her work usually consists of figures and urban landscapes, but regardless of the subject or genre she chooses, light is always the strongest element in her paintings. Her visual approach reveals that search as she explores its interplay with shadow or reflections in relation to vibrant color. She works with a spontaneous and energized hand, applying loose brushstrokes of paint on a bright orange toned canvas, leaving the underpainting filter throughout the scene and giving the finished piece a distinctive glow.

Former graphic designer, Veronica completed her master degree in Art at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, in France. She is a recognized award-winning artist, member of the California Art Club and the National Society of Painters in Acrylic. Her work has been selected for several solo shows, has received numerous awards and has been published in several books and magazines in France and in the US, including The Artist Magazine and Southwest Art. Her studio is in Irvine, California.

“I like to capture the natural beauty of everyday life and invite the viewer to slow down and enjoy fleeting moments of scenes I have encountered throughout my travels. I intend to record a moment in time and transform an ordinary scene into something extraordinary.”







Norma Samuelson

At the young age of 12 Norma Samuelson started her classical training as an artist, at the Superior School of Visual Arts, Martin A. Malharro in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Her intense studies included life drawing, painting, sculpting and engraving. After receiving her degree she began to teach, and then went on to join a renowned group of traveling muralist winning national accolades and awards in Argentina. After working in a prestigious advertising agency in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, she settled in the United States starting her own Architectural illustration studio in Orange County California.

She has had a long and illustrious career working with many famous architects from around the world, including the New York offices of IM PEI. Her diverse portfolio reflects work on major architectural projects throughout the US and other parts of the globe. Her unique style of splashy yet detailed watercolors are her trademark. The attention to detail in her work gives each piece a unique quality, she creates a piece of fine art for each project and client that she works with.

As a volunteer visitor to an Orphanage in Tijuana, BC; at the end of 2012, the artist Norma Samuelson made a portrait in watercolors of a child from an Orphanage. Upon returning the following month the artist showed her original to the child who was surprised and a huge smile filled his face. To the great surprise of the artist, the other children began to ask her to create portraits of them. After two years of work, the artist completed 60 portraits in watercolor, and the “Rostros” art exhibit was born.

The artist realized that the children upon seeing themselves portrayed, felt very special. They understood that they were not merely one more child in an Institution, but that they were each a unique child, with a unique identity.

Norma is also an accomplished fine art watercolorist with paintings capturing life from around the world, and a children’s book illustrator.

“The portrait painting captures the soul of the individual. It goes beyond the physical aspect, and to expose the true nature and soul of a person. As an artist, I try to reflect within each portrait, the children’s emotions and feelings. Each portrait was painted in the same size, as a symbol that each child is individual but at the same time is just as important as their peers in an orphanage.”

“I hope to expand their interest in the visual arts as a means of expression, so that they can develop their creativity and as a result connect with their social world, and educate the public and provide awareness regarding the existence of Orphans, and to be able to achieve some responsibility in the community for these kids.”

Tony DeSantis

“A passion to create: Capture by camera what is seen and to create by imagination what is not.”

Born in Providence Rhode Island in 1961 my family moved to Southern California in 1967. For most of my life I have lived near the ocean. I have always found beauty and art in the oceans sunrise and sunsets. Not until recently have I found a way to share that beauty through my art bringing the motion of waves and light to life in long exposure photography. I received 1st Place Gold Medalist in Fine Art Architecture.

What you see captured is the oceans natural movement along with the light of the sky that only sunrise or sunset can bring. The combination of shutter speed with movement of the world around us creates my vision and artistic style.


Marie Martin

Marie Martin explores abstract, non- representational, and emotive work. Her medium is acrylic; more recently digital work. First inspired by Mark Rothko, Wolf Kahn, and Georgie O’Keeffe, their dialogue with color, more than subject matter, was most compelling. Marie’s early work shows Rothko’s influence, exploring tension, and emotional energy found in color and spacial relationships.

Early work reveals heavy layering of acrylic paints as the technique expressing her ideas best. Initially, painting over an unsuccessful piece was financially necessary. Over time, it became clear that pentimento was the aspect that caused a successful painting. Marie’s most valued works are over 8 layers deep.

New digital work concerns “giving voice to line”, an exploration of minimalism, and reflects Marie’s intense interest in “less is more”. Not a new concept, surely, but a concept that seems appropriate for current interest in examining quality versus quantity.

Marie Martin’s work has been shown since 2005 in Southern California venues, and her work is held by private collectors in the same region.

Samvel Sargsyan

The line must dance, The line must have a beginning and an end…

Art is conceived in freedom, it is without chains or locks, just like the dance of that line, it is free. This is the line on which the painting builds. Transparently simple yet profoundly complex. As old as the Egyptian pyramids yet modern and relevant.

I love the diversity in painting. Which is more beautiful? Realism or abstractionism? Which is more correct? The landscape or the portrait? Maybe the composition. For me, the ultimate is honestly.

I don’t like to discover something, then dance happily forever. I value the past, what has been digested. I love to overcome, seek, find, become established, then move forward.

How beautiful is the celestial dance of that line? It is everywhere. It is the loudest, the truest, the most melodious dance of all, belonging to both yesterday and tomorrow.

But most of all, I love to draw. I love the fall, the air, our breath. I love hope and I love the light. And of course I love that line and I love you all.

Hambardzum Ghukasyan

For Hambardzun Ghukasyan painting is a silent play. It is a conversation about love, beauty and eternity. It is a way to emphasize philosophical thoughts about human relations, existence and loneliness. His artwork exhibits ideas derived from a powerful source where myth, nature and memory are born from a mysterious cosmic eternity.

“Time is powerful and limitless”, said the artist. The Great Earthquake in 1988 destroyed his hometown Gyumri. Twenty thousand lives were lost. The earthquake forced the artist to reevaluate time as a philosophical category. The artist interprets memories of earthquakes in his own way: ruins are the symbol of the irreversibility of the past. The artist tries to cope with the horror through his art.

In his paintings Nike, the Greek goddess, symbolizes victory. Like the Savior Church in Gyumri, even though shattered, it still stands tall and triumphant. In Hambardzun Ghukasyan’s art, his colors are transformed from the physical realm into the spiritual. They become a separate spiritual body which is visible. That’s why he perceives the color of the soil as a breathing and feeling substance.

Diana Ghoukassian

DIANA GHOUKASSIAN’s journey into the realm of photography is a fairly recent one. Though she received her first camera at age 9 she had not pursued photography, except for the typical photographs of travels and of her children. It was not until she decided to show one of her photographs at the Orange County Fair in 2009 and got accepted that Diana’s interest in exploring her artistic side became ignited. That was the turning point and there was no going back.

Steven McHale, an art blogger, wrote an article in 2017 describing both Diana’s photographic art and her gallery in the following excerpts below: Diana G. creates. ‘I paint with my lens’ is her motto. Her approach to photography is similar to her approach to art. She looks for what moves her. She says all her shots are impulsive. ‘I find the extraordinary in ordinary things’. She does not stage her shots and does little in terms of retouching. Many of her shots are snapped from a moving vehicle. As she puts it, ‘imperfections are very much part of my art’. Steven McHale’s article can be read in its entirety on

Diana’s daughter describes her mother’s art below: “Diana’s aptitude lies in finding beauty in the least expected places. Her ability to transform the everyday mundane acts and objects into extraordinary photographs is what makes Diana’s photography so unique. She possesses this innate sense that allows her to see what others overlook. Being able to capture fleeting moments and then immortalizing them into beautiful pieces of art is a talent that Diana has exquisitely mastered. Her photographs somehow speak to the observer. While the technique is not Diana’s forte, and she will be the first to admit it, her discerning eye and her love of photography are what makes her an unrivaled photographer”. Despite her unconventional start at photography, Diana has blossomed into this fine photographer whose skill of capturing the ephemeral I have yet to see anyone match.”

In addition to capturing unique photographs, Diana decided to open her own gallery “Diana’s Finds” in 2012 adjacent to Bistango. There one can find a myriad of artworks from artists, both past, and present. Diana’s Finds’ collection can be seen on as well as on Diana has displayed her own photography at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA), Newport Beach Cultural Center where she won second place in 2016, UCI, Orange County Fair and Bistango Restaurant.

“Windows are the link connecting our worlds inside and out. Windows tell stories, tell the time of day, bring in the moon as they do the sun and the mood of the day.

I looked out from the warmth of the Minneapolis Arts Institute. My gaze carried me out onto an expanse of cold, hazy, melancholic, yet beautiful late afternoon cityscape. This photograph was taken four years ago, around this time of year in 2014. Its memory still lingers on.”

Diana seeks and sees beauty in the least expected places. Transforming the everyday mundane acts and objects into what she considers the extraordinary, is what her work is about. While very eclectic, her main subjects are architectural and abstract minimalism. A solo exhibit of her work titled “COLORS AND SHAPES” will be shown at the Newport Beach Library starting November 5, 2018 continuing through January 4, 2019.

More of he own work and consigned art can be seen at her gallery in the ATRIUM building where Bistango resides. A new show ARTS ON CONSIGNMENT”” will be on display October 20th from 3 to 7 p.m.


JEFF SCHWALM’s earliest stone carving influences date back to his old world Italian Grandfather. For the past thirty-five years Jeff has worked as a master craftsmen creating and executing beautiful stone and tile designs in private homes. Jeff has always known he would pursue a lifestyle where he would use his hands and follow some form of art. From the first stone sculpting class that was offered to Jeff in 2004 at Laguna College of Art and Design, he knew he had found his passion. Jeff’s artistic vision became taking those raw uncut stones, and being the master craftsman, to discover and uncover the beauty that is hiding within each piece. Sometimes that journey takes him to a place where he tests the stones boundaries and sometimes the stone test his boundaries. There is no greater pleasure than shaping raw stone boulders, whether it’s marble, alabaster, onyx, or any other stone, into finished sculptures of art. Now after twelve years, this is his heart and soul. This is the path he plans to follow for the rest of his life.

Exhibit curated by Antoinette A Sullivan | (949) 697-4838
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