In May, painter Mark Bettis welcomed the works of Brevard-based sculptor Christine Kosiba into his River Arts District space — the Mark Bettis Studio & Gallery. The pair put up a themed show inspired by the fables of ancient Greek storyteller Aesop. Titled Parables in Clay and Paint, Bettis and Kosiba’s works highlight the simple truths represented in Aesop’s tales “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Bear and the Bees,” “The Fox and the Crow,” “The Hares and the Frogs,” “The Owl and the Grasshopper,” “The Cock and the Fox” and “The Wolf and His Shadow.”
While the two artists work in different mediums, they share a common background: Both are self-taught. Bettis arrived to Asheville in 2007, working as an art director for a commercial agency. His evenings were spent painting in his garage. Meanwhile, Koshiba came to the area in 1997 and spent several years in education, working with special needs children. She used pottery as part of her instruction.
Bettis considers the pair’s first themed show as particularly relevant in our current political climate. The importance of humility and foresight, as well as commentary on the false nature of flattery, are all explored in Aesop’s fables and, by extension, the artists’ works.
Bettis points to “The Wolf and His Shadow” as an example of the life lessons offered in the parables. In it, a wolf mistakes its shadow for its actual size. Because of this, the animal sees no reason why it shouldn’t be king. It runs off to announce its new title to the lion. As it does, the lion’s shadow blots out the wolf’s own. Seconds later, the wolf is struck down by the lion in a single blow.
The response to Parables in Clay and Paint has been positive, says Kosiba. Like Bettis, she sees the importance behind each story’s message. On some level, she says, her hope is that hers and Bettis’ works will further promote these lessons. “The whole point behind Aesop’s fables was to remind people to be kind to yourself and to others. To try and walk through this world with a conscience and to think about what you’re doing. … To try and be the best people we can be.”