Intelligent art gets smart
By Katie Modras-Anible
Bella Vita. Life is beautiful. Warmth and vitality are certainly words that would be aptly used to describe the opening of Bella Vita Gallery on June 18 at Front Street Studios. The event stretched down the hallway on the third floor of building 1000 after pouring out into the hallway from the open doors of the studio, filling any wall space available with pieces from any of the three featured artists. Even the freight elevator was occupied by the upright bass that Chris Corn, bassist for local rock gods My Latex Brain, was kindly making use of impromptu style to jam with the band that was set up in the foyer. Drummer Erich Reith, also one of the featured artists at Bella Vita, kept time by hand for the band’s exotic pulsing sound as the sun set in deep blues and oranges over the Dayton skyline just outside the window. A grand repast stretched the length of the hallway and all present exuded comfort and enjoyment.
Erich Reith is well known in the Dayton area, both for his drumming and his woodwork. Working with the Dayton Art Institute and having been a long-time Goloka Gallery cooperator, Reith is no stranger to showing his artwork and continues to produce delightfully delicate pieces, finely handcarved. Among others, a foreboding little black bird head, appearing to be smooth as silk, sits near two different wooden skulls that charmingly grin out at the crowd staring through wide empty eye sockets. A tall piece sits in the corner and its otherworldly, standing shape seems like a patron in the crowd, relaxing and listening to the band. It is covered with curves, bulges and lines that seem to undulate through and around the length of the sculpture, creating a sensuous and lively item. Reith does not fail to remain playful and refined in his subject matter and execution.
Pat Antonick sat comfortably amongst her creations, her silver hair in a sharp short page, in one of the small Bella Vita show rooms off the foyer. She proceeded to introduce me to her work. A graduate of the Dayton Art Institute before the school’s closing, she recalls her days in attendance fondly.
“Some of the best years of my life,” she said.
She is multi-talented and uses a wide variety of mediums to suit her needs. Paint, fabric, clay, recycled and found objects — she stretches her self-expression to encompass a broad folk art arena. The square, kaleidoscopic design paintings that she explains she is still developing, call to mind the folk art hex signs from the sides of Swedish barns or classic quilt square designs, only they’ve gone all psychedelic and suck you right in — superb.
“You can see here, there is a lot more movement and depth,” she said as she she showed her most recent square painting and how she has cultivated her methods.
Her digital textiles — quilted images of tiny squares of color — allude to actual recognizable form, but view them through a surveyor’s scope and the image magically becomes clear. To my startled and happy reaction, she smiles, “I give one of these scopes with each quilt every time I sell one.”
She displays a number of robot heads that have been constructed from all sorts of whatnot.
“In my studio, I have containers so big I had to put wheels on them,” said Atonick, describing her collection of found and collected supplies she uses to construct recycled pieces.
Aside from these, decorative clay plates and vessels line the walls and sit on shelves, each a story in itself.
The newly remodeled studio and gallery is the work and show space recently developed by local painter and sculptor Adam Mitchell and Dayton-area psychiatrist Dr. Stephanie Riolo. Three months of dedication and work has yielded the now four-room center that serves as his personal wood shop and paint studio and includes two show rooms.
In his personal showroom, paintings with stunning surrealist subject matter, his preferred avenue, employing his method of layering many colors of paint in his own style of pointillism sit amongst fine examples of portraits and landscapes rich in color and full of depth. There are recognizable images: a rendition of the same skyline from the window, scenes of life near the river downtown. One cannot help but feel the swell of life in this small room filled with these visions everywhere
“We’ll be open two days a week for people to come and see the art on display or to purchase items,” said Mitchell. “Having the studio adjoined, I can keep working and it works out really well.”
Mitchell expects to have a biannual celebration such as the opening itself, and will have other smaller public engagements throughout the year. As art collection becomes more of a norm for an ever-broadening demographic, galleries such as Bella Vita display such works that can become personal investments and can bring daily pleasure. Life is beautiful.
Bella Vita will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 1000 E. Second St., Suite 3085 at the Front Street Warehouses in Dayton. Please visit Adam Mitchell’s website for future event information and inquiries at
Reach DCP freelance writer
Katie Anible-Modras at