Up a short flight of stairs from Cherry Street and tucked among the quaint shops of downtown Black Mountain is Bella Gallery, an 800-square-foot showroom featuring local and regional fine artists.
Bella Gallery owner Luciene Amador-Smith’s route to Black Mountain began in South America, where she was born and raised in the state of Goiás in the central part of Brazil. In 1992, she moved to the United States after accepting the invitation of her cousin, a neurologist who lived in Daytona Beach, to be his one-year-old son’s babysitter. After caring for the baby for two years, she moved to Asheville, where another of her cousins lived. She intended to stay in Asheville for six months and then move back to Brazil. “But God had other plans for me,” says Amador-Smith.
Here she owned a granite-countertop business before turning to real estate, which was how she learned that the owners of Bella Gallery, which had been in business at the Cherry Street location for eight years, had decided to sell the gallery and retire. Despite lacking any previous gallery experience, Amador-Smith found the opportunity intriguing, and so she seized it, buying the gallery in 2018.
Bella Gallery currently represents 11 artists, including Amador-Smith, who is a jewelry designer branded under her maiden name, Luciene Amador. “I have always enjoyed craftwork since a young age,” she says. Over the years, these interests have included working with textiles — custom sewing, crocheting, embroidery, and knitting. “But I never thought about taking a jewelry class. When I first purchased the store, I initially thought about taking painting lessons.” But upon reflection, she changed her mind, deciding that making jewelry might actually prove to be more interesting. She took some private classes in jewelry design and was immediately hooked.
Describing her process, she says, “I create my design around the stone. For each stone, I see different designs.” Surfaces play off each other in these miniature examples of modern art: In one necklace, a brilliant piece of aquamarine is offset with an earthier, opaque stone; a piece of rose gold cut like a twig sets up the balance. Making these pieces has become her passion, along with running the gallery.
All of the artists represented at Bella Gallery are either from Black Mountain or live within a couple of hours of the town. Asked how she discovers new artists, Amador-Smith replies, “[They] find me. I feel fortunate about that.”
Works are by emerging makers as well as those with well-established careers, and mediums encompass sculpture, pottery, fine-art photography, paintings, turned-wood vessels, glass vessels, and marquetry work. The gallery also boasts an extensive collection of estate jewelry and high-end watches from Denmark.
Among the represented artists is Bob Travers, a painter whose realistic works capture the scenery and wildlife that surround his mountain studio. Another is Marilyn Place, who creates oil paintings similarly inspired by the beauty of our region. Bella also contains images by fine-art photographer Herb Way, whose experiences — from working as a military photojournalist to being a wedding photographer — help inform his technical knowledge and artistic eye.
Steve Miller creates amazingly complex vessels. Initially a woodturner, he still incorporates that process but goes far beyond by carving, painting, and burning his creations for an extraordinary level of detail.
Like Miller, multimedia artist Connie McNees has been with the gallery from the very beginning: “They asked me to join them before they opened, and I was delighted,” she says. McNees creates meticulously detailed figures and portraits in clay and then has a foundry cast these 2D-relief and 3D pieces in bronze; she also creates marble torsos in the classical style. “I have really enjoyed watching [Bella] grow into a destination where fine art is truly represented,” emphasizes the sculptor, who also paints. “It’s a privilege to show with the other artists [who have been] carefully chosen.”
Bella Gallery, 112-A Cherry St., Black Mountain (additional parking off State Street). Gallery hours are 10am-5pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; 10am-6pm on Saturday; and closed Sundays and Tuesdays. For more information, contact gallery owner Luciene Amador-Smith at 828-669-5190 or by e-mail at email@example.com. www.bellagallerync.com.