My Kid Could Paint That Reviews
Also of note is the credit given to the underrated skill and sensibility that goes into abstract art. Even people who don't "get" abstract art should still be able to discern cracks in the "Child Prodigy" authorship narrative with Bar-Lev's objective camera, especially in the side-by-side comparison views of Marla's off-screen and on-screen paintings.
ANSWER: She's a child who's just out of Diapers and still learning her ABC'S.
Documentarian Amir Bar-Lev was sent to debunk any doubts and coven the bad press that DATELINE Instilled onto the Olmstead clan.
The only problem was Dateline and others before Amir weren't half wrong. The publicly alone was proven to be a strain on Marla's family and her parents marriage.
Before I saw this film, I only knew that it was about a four-year-old abstract expressionist. The film explored every question that occurred to me when I thought about the concept: does abstract art qualify as art, what are the effects of artistic fame on the child artist, who are the parents, and could this be a hoax. Within the first half hour, the film explores everything, which is a credit to director Amir Bar-Lev. The questions about Marla's authenticity take on a new prominence as the film continues and spark a self-reflective journey for the filmmaker. Is he violating a family's privacy by making the film? It's a question that Bar-Lev doesn't take lightly and rightly so. The film's one weakness is that we don't know enough about Bar-Lev before his experiences with the Olmsteads, so it's late in the film before we can attach ourselves to his journey. But all of these stories are compelling, and the comments about art by New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman are particularly insightful.
For my own part, I think "art" is a big enough word to encompass abstract expressionism and "splatter painting." While I don't find the work particularly compelling, I do find people who talk about the theory behind their work more interesting than the work itself. The same is true with modern art; I don't like looking at a Warhol, but I like listening to Warhol's apologia for his work. While Marla, the child artist, seems blissfully unaware of the firestorm surrounding her work, the parents work tirelessly to protect her name. I find Mark suspicious, and though I don't think Laura is in on the hoax, I think she suspects her husband. Yes, I think it's a hoax, but the film's strength is its ability to avoid making its own conclusions.
Overall, I think when I can start thinking about the film's issues rather than how the film is made, it says that the film is good enough to transcend the typical value judgments we employ when we watch films.
In addition, there are some nice leads in the film that point toward the connection between Epistemology/Cognition and Aesthetics.
According to Gwen, it's entirely possible that the reason abstract art does literally nothing for me has to do with how my brain is wired. This is also suggested by the fact that I am incapable of seeing Magic Eye images. There's something about how I see things that means that, instead of how Gwen sees a Jackson Pollock--"This line leads to this one, and they all blend, and it's like a story"--the thing it says to me, "Well, he certainly owned several colours of paint." So I literally did not understand how you could even tell a prodigy in abstract art (we'll get to that later), because while some of it was prettier masses of colour than others, it's all just colour. Roger has one of Marla Olmstead's paintings up on his review, and I thought, "My, that's a lovely blue she's using there." Whereas Gwen got horribly depressed at what she thought it was saying, reminded herself that she's not a child psychologist, and left the room. So.
At any rate, when Marla was four, her father, Mark, saw her painting and decided that she was really good. You know, the way parents do. But he set Marla up with big canvases and complicated art tools, because he's also an artist and owns them himself, and started hanging her work on the wall. And then someone bought one, and then there were galleries interested, and then Marla became a Thing and was featured in the [i]New York Times[/i]. And then [i]60 Minutes[/i] did a story on Marla, suggesting that Mark at bare minimum helped Marla with her creations. This is not exactly made a difficult suggestion given some of what he's on camera saying to her. Suddenly, people who had been paying thousands, tens of thousands, of dollars for an original Marla creation had to decide if their paintings were worth as much if they weren't the sole work of an adorable four-year-old girl. Not that Mark and Laura Olmstead will acknowledge Mark coached her even a little.
Which is frankly ridiculous. I mean, for one thing, I'm a little hesitant that Marla was physically capable of some of the things she supposedly does. She's supposedly painting 4' by 6' canvases. One of her canvases is divided in four almost exactly by heavy black lines. However, let's assume that every drop of paint on those canvases was put there by Marla, because I have no way of knowing for sure either way. We do have documentary evidence that Marla has at least gotten advice from her father. [i]60 Minutes[/i] hid a camera in her basement; the idea was that Marla paints differently on camera from how she does naturally, so if she didn't know the camera was there, it would capture the real Marla. Her parents knew it was there, but she did not. And we have, from that camera, her father telling her how to paint in fairly frustrated tones. He says it's the only time he did it and that he feels stupid about it, but I suspect what he felt stupid about was saying it where the camera could pick it up.
You see, my biggest problem with the whole thing is not the truth of whether Marla painted every drop on her own or not--though she says at one point that her younger brother, Zane, painted something she's credited with. My problem is that Marla is a sweet, adorable, friendly four-year-old girl, and I don't like the idea of what all this could do to her even if she is the prodigy she's claimed to be. Perhaps especially if she's the prodigy she's claimed to be. She's a developing child, and there's this pressure on her to produce great art. She's important, because she's an artist. Marla Olmstead is twelve now, and while I don't follow the art scene, I can imagine what life would be like for a twelve-year-old abstract art prodigy. A quick Google search provides no current information about her; as far as the internet shows, this film is about the last thing to have happened to her. I hope this means that, after this, she was able to be a normal kid, but of course the website selling her paintings is still there.
The reason Marla is considered a prodigy, apparently, is that she covers the whole canvas and uses layers of paint, which are supposedly things children don't usually do. To me, this frankly isn't enough. For one thing, Mike is an artist himself, which means Marla grew up exposed to art in the home. She knew that "grown-up pictures" cover the entire canvas, and doubtless she did it the same way Daddy did. Kids are like that. The other thing, though, is the claim that kids don't layer. This does not ring true to me. I remember doing that myself, and I was never much of a visual artist. I mean, isn't that pretty much what finger-painting is for all little kids? Teaching them how to layer their paints? I will say that, if Marla is directing her father as to what canvases she wants and selected the colour palettes for every painting I've seen herself, that's an eye few little kids have. On the other hand, the thing which freaked Gwen out was the frustration she thought was being shown by all those soothing blues and greys with stark red splashed on top of them. I suspect a tell-all book will reveal the truth someday one way or another.