Asheville Art Talk: Fables come to the RAD

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AESOP: Artists Mark Bettis and Christine Kosiba pose in front of their respective works, inspired by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop and his fable, "The Owl and the Grasshopper." Photo courtesy of Bettis

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.

THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE: Bettis' painting emphasizes the fable's message that the race is not always to the swift, but the persistent.
THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE: Bettis’ painting emphasizes Aesop’s message that the race goes not always to the swift, but sometimes to the persistent.

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.”

WHAT: Parables in Clay and Paint
WHERE: Mark Bettis Studio & Gallery, 123 Roberts St.
WHEN: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

THE FOX AND THE FOX: Kosiba's sculptures pay tribute to Aesop's warning that the trickier is easily tricked.
THE COCK AND THE FOX: Kosiba’s sculptures capture the two characters in Aesop’s tale about deception and how the trickster is not immune to trickery.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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