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Kozic, Maria - 1994.21

Maria Kozic

Tits 1991
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
27.8 x 27.8 cm
Donated by Professor Graeme Smith 1994

Maria Kozic began producing work in the late 1970s, and her prolific output defies simple categorisation. Kozic’s art can be critiqued through the lens of the avant-garde, pop art, conceptual art and/or feminist art. Or one could argue that she is a riot grrrl – one of the subcultural movement that began in the early ’90s and is known for its feminist consciousness, punk style and politics, DIY aesthetics and bands that challenge the male-dominated music scene.

Kozic is a multidisciplinary artist who works across mediums, including theatre, set design, experimental film and video, sound, record-cover design, zines and publications, T-shirts, installation and more traditional media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and photography. Maria Kozic Is Bitch (1990) is the artist’s most iconic work. The simple combination of image and text mimics the language of advertising to literally create a poster for female empowerment. The billboard unblinkingly stares down the omnipresent male gaze, the provocatively clad artist public in her defiance.

Tits is a quieter, simpler work, though no less profound. One of a series of paintings that represents ‘tits’, the work shows that tits continue to be a feminist issue. The female body and its representation are as contested today as they have been historically. ‘Free the nipple’, ‘slut march’, public breastfeeding activisms, and advocating the rights of trans and non-binary people are all strategies that expose societal attitudes towards breasts, sexuality, identity politics and gender identification, and signal that the body remain a deeply contested site within contemporary culture.

In her seminal text The Beauty Myth (1990), Naomi Wolf considers the ‘Official Breast’:

Many mature women have large breasts that are not ‘firm’ and ‘pert’. The breast that is high but also large and firm is most likely to belong to a teenager. In a culture which fears the price of women’s sexual self confidence, that breast is the reassuring guarantee of extreme youth – sexual ignorance and infertility.[1]

Once the domain of the rich and famous, cosmetic surgery procedures, including breast augmentation, have been successfully marketed to become mainstream. If you aren’t born with the breasts you desire, cosmetic surgery can help. Social media influencers and fashion ambassadors share with us their transformative ‘body journey’ on branded Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat accounts. We watch as the influencers effectively commodify themselves, shopping for the perfect cup size and the perfect surgeon. It is a rapidly expanding but under-regulated industry in which willing customers can now undergo cosmetic surgeries in shopping centres. Payment plans are available so women can have the boobs they want today and pay tomorrow. Satisfied patients report improved self-esteem and sexual confidence but, conversely, fixing botched boob jobs also entertain us on reality TV shows.

Time is not kind to all artworks. As it passes, time can render some art meaningless. For me, the real strength in the work of Maria Kozic lies in her ability to identify what continues to be pertinent today. She has a vast back-catalogue of artworks that address complex and nuanced issues that seemingly become more relevant with each passing day.

Natalie Thomas is an artist and writer living in Melbourne.

[1] Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, Chatto & Windus, London, 1990, p.248.