Eat!

Emil Kazaz makes me want to be really, really fat

Photo by Jack GouldIt has been a long time since a work of art made me wish I weighed 200 pounds and even longer since such a painting made me wish my lover weighed even more—and that together, we could mince around on our eensy little feet, floating as gracefully and confidently in our corpulence as Fantasia's dancing hippopotamuses.

But I do. I wish I weighed 200 pounds and had a face like those Russian dolls that nestle one in another, colorful babushkas tied round their bowling-pin heads. I wish I had thighs like big, firm ham hocks and breasts like plump, proud grapefruits bouncing forth from my torso, which isn't so much Rubenesque as it is reminiscent of the powerfully assy Venus of Willendorf. I wish I had violet eyes like a kewpie doll's, wide enough to take up half my face while my big fat lover kneels nude atop me, his quivering little chin sinking into his wobbling flesh, weepily enamored of the juicy fleshiness that is all woman—and all me. I wish to eat a bonbon.

Emil Kazaz has done this to me. I may never be the same.

Kazaz paints Eves sans nipples and montes veneris; they are as anatomically incorrect as Barbie dolls. And Barbies, for their much-maligned image of beauty (you've all received the e-mail, haven't you, that insists you would have to be 10 feet tall and have a waist of 14 inches to have her proportions?), are no less dangerous than Kazaz's ideal. His ladies would have to have thighs as big around as a Thanksgiving turkey below trim waists—but without saggy, sumo-wrestler flab. How fair is that?

His hawkish Adams look like Lincoln with cauliflower noses. They gaze in awe toward the canvases where their Eves simper daintily like Refrigerator Perry, beautiful and coy like Regency debutantes, but naked, before the apple.

The Armenian-born Kazaz depicts mythologies that blend East and West into a happy, daisy-scented smorgasbord of thickly impastoed oils. The Russian and Greek Orthodox are evident in the grim eyes of bearded men who become fish. Parisian boudoirs are peopled with disinterested heroines being smooched by smug griffins that look like dachshunds. His sculpture of Judith (who slew Holofernes) is a Mesopotamian fertility goddess mixed with Marie Antoinette; she has skulls for curls and breasts that seem to be wearing gravity boots. Men morph into satyrs—or Louis XIV. And everyone is as dumpy and foreshortened as a knobby little caricature of Napoleon Bonaparte. They are delightful and grotesque, denizens of a gilded Rococo that is equal parts wedding at Canaan and Madame Pompadour, Petunia Pig and Catherine the Great, Little Bo-Peep and Augustus Gloop. His postmodern stew chops up cherubs and cupids and maids creamy as flan and makes you believe in the olden days of jesters and nymphs, when trysting was a delightful pastime enjoyed by all the best kinds of people: ladies received visitors while in the bath and everyone looked sideways from beneath their velvety eyelashes. It's an ambiguous world of happy but threateningly stormy magical realism, as indebted to Gabriel García Márquez and the Brothers Grimm as to Marc Chagall's flying Jews and "Lady of Spain."

It's a rich little world that makes you yearn for a piece of it. So either pony up a couple of grand or start receiving visitors in dishabille. And be sure to pack on 70 pounds or so while you're at it.

Emil Kazaz at Galerie 224 Contemporary Art, 224 Forrest Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-5757. Lecture by Zoran Belic titled "Contemporary Mythology and Art," Thurs., Feb. 3, 7 p.m. Through Feb. 14.
 
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