Dark Plastic

The Art Of Maria Kozic

published in Free Life WIth Franchise, Mambo Publications, Sydney, 1998
Maria Kozic with Philip Brophy, Northcote 1981

Screwed-up chicks and sensitive guys. Neither fit in. They're the side characters in teen movies, the niche market of the now, the fodder for any talk about being individual. Many end up making art. Cliches, perhaps. Icons for sure. But still there's something there. Some slight sense of difference which makes them have their mid-life crisis way early.

Sensitive guys - the chicks dig them bad. Soft little toys with big lips and foppish hair. They sing like girls. Or like David Bowie. Pop music would be nowhere without sensitive guys. It doesn't matter whether what they do is good or bad. The chicks dig them bad. They want to save them, succour them like little children. They watch them onstage from a distance. Up there, spot-lit, they look like flickering swap cards of collectable dolls.

Flip it. Screwed-up chicks - the guys dig them bad. Jagged little pills with edgy eyes and messed up hair. They don't sing like boys: they sing like banshees. That scream outside: is someone watching PROM NIGHT or is some girl laughing her head off? Perhaps it's a grrrl band rehearsing. The guys dig them bad, then start to go sensitive when the screwed-up chick screws them up. That's the way it goes.

Screwed-up chicks and sensitive guys are normal boys and girls turned inside out, their interiors exposed, fiercely oxidising. When guys do this, they start to become chicks. But when chicks do this, they start to become monsters.

It's not because they want to.

Maria Kozic was turned inside out a number of times over by the time she started exhibiting her art in galleries. In the early 80s, art dudes figured she was a postmodernist with her fake fur goats, a wall of flowers printed onto free card samples from a paper supplier, sculptural portraits of her favourite TV horse stars, giant fuzzy dice. In the early 90s, art dudes still figured she was a postmodernist.

Like as if she cared where art was going. Like as if she ate dinner with people who read books. Maria Kozic does heavy shit. She has fought with mothers over the last WWF dolls at a K-Mart sale. ("I was determined to get George 'The Animal' Steele.") She collects tiny shards of coloured plastic left in the street car accidents ("They shine like rubies.") She has what might be the world's most extensive collection of gross-out dolls and victim toys. ("When you press this button, pus comes out his nose.") She watches more horror movies then me. ("I could watch the worms in SQUIRM daily.")

Like any truly screwed-up chick, the surface of her art is a garish quilt covering some hairy, sweaty thing that itself has already been turned inside out. What you see is not what's there. Her stuff is bright, pop, plastic; she's dark, pop, plastic. Maria Kozic is like the tenderness of Sandra Bernhard's cynicism, the energy of SAILOR MOON's naivete, the beauty of Madonna's aggressiveness, the sexiness of MY LITTLE PONY's butt. No studies in Popular Culture will help you out. No art-referencing of Maria Kozic's work will make it sit still somewhere.

A giant inflatable doll, two stories high, bright blue and gooky. A room full of paintings of tits, sold by weight. Huge portraits of lifeless dolls sealed in shiny plastic, they're eyes more morbid than a Keane painting. Garish cartoon reproductions of 70s macho guys, their brains and eyeballs splattered. Small things covered in veins, quaking slightly inside humidicribs. A gigantic billboard of her in bra & fishnets holding a power drill in one hand and squashing a G.I.JOE doll in the other. File under Maria Kozic.

That chick screaming in her painting THE END. It's the final frame from Doris Wishman's BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL. Likewise, Maria Kozic is frozen in the heady beauty of her own hell. It's a real scream. Screwed-up and turned inside out, she is the monster of her past - an innocent born of stupid, violent parents, themselves cast in their own suburban horror movie. Yet her art is neither confessional nor therapeutic. No cheap humanism served to go here. Her work doesn't scream out its pathos - it holds its mouth silently open for you to feel its breath. Is it kitsch, camp, tack, trash, retro, ironic? Please. It's more real then you could imagine. It is the skin of everything that is dark, pop, plastic.

Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Robert Rooney.