One Hell of a Show

In the battle for lost souls between God and Satan, the devil is in the lead.

It's probably because of his car.

Not that the Almighty doesn't have a pretty slick ride of his own: His ivory sports car, mounting a massive pair of wings, looks fast enough to overpower the devil's cherry-red Corvette. But it seems inevitable that Satan should prevail in a competition involving a drag race: The term "speed demon" has to exist for a reason.

The unbalanced battle is all George Kocar's fault. The artist and president of the Northern Ohio Illustrator's Society concocted the supernatural scenario for NOIS' sixth-annual exhibition, Heaven and Hell, at The EDGE Art Gallery Sept. 17 through Oct. 8. Kocar's work, "Dragging for Souls," is just one of nearly 50 paintings, drawings and sculptures by nearly 30 of the organization's members — local illustrators whose juried show challenges them to create pieces based on a theme.

"Two years ago, I did a painting called •Beer Frame,' which depicted God and the devil having a bowling tournament, fighting for people's souls," says Kocar. While that fight — complete with God wielding a bowling ball with a thunderbolt decal — was created too long ago for entry in this exhibit, the Bay Village artist had no problem conjuring up more ideas for this year's show. His "The Last Supper Between Heaven and Hell" is pretty faithful to Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, "The Last Supper": the disciples are all there, gathered around their long supper table. But there are a few, not-so-slight changes.

"[The disciples] will be skeletons," says Kocar, explaining that he has an interest in Mexican Day of the Dead folk art. "And they're wearing sombreros," he adds.

Despite giving the works his own distinctive twist, Kocar's output on this particular theme (he'll have five pieces in the exhibit) seems unusual. He admits that his art "rarely touches on religious stuff," and he isn't much of a believer in heaven or hell, anyway.

"If it did, either place would not appeal to me," says Kocar. "Can you imagine staying an eternity with a bunch of sanctimonious Bible stumpers and teetotalers? Or being with a bunch of really bad people in the other place?"

Still, the theme allows Kocar to flex his artistic muscle, painting more of his signature cartoonlike images with protruding red noses, and offers gallery visitors a devilishly good time.

"Just as I satire the world around me in my work," he says, "I can satire the so-called afterlife."

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