My Kid Could Paint That

10 10 2008

My Kid Could Paint That is a multi-layered documentary centering around Marla Olmstead, a four year old painter who is hailed as a child prodigy by abstract art lovers the whole world over. The film also details her rise and fall from fame and deals with the mainstream public’s apparent disdain for abstract art. Amir Bar-Lev, the director, also skillfully sets the film’s pacing to ensure that Marla’s story is told as naturally as possible. By withholding most of the footage of the media’s scathing criticisms of Marla’s art until roughly halfway through the film, he sends the viewer to ride the rollercoaster of fame right along with the family. However, the main question of the film is implied fairly early: Did Marla actually paint the paintings?

The story, as told by her parents, is that Marla took an interest in painting on her own volition and began creating masterpieces almost instantly after finding her father’s painting supplies lying around the house. According to Laura, her mother, they decided to show some of her work at a local coffee house “as a joke,” which soon after snowballed into major galleries, press coverage, and of course sales. As media attention grew to epic proportions, Marla of course remained blissfully unaware of what was happening all around her. However, all of it came crashing down in a period of days after 60 Minutes aired a piece which proclaimed in no uncertain terms that Marla was not the true creator of the paintings.

On the issue of the legitimacy of the paintings, there seems to be an abundance of evidence pointing to the conclusion that someone else, most likely her father, created the works and not Marla; the paintings themselves being the most obvious proof of all. Out of all the paintings that have been sold, adding up to over $300,000 in revenue, only two were ever documented from start to finish and bear no resemblance whatsoever to the others. Although they’re all basically paint haphazardly splashed onto canvas, the two that were captured on film are only the mediocre efforts of a 4 year old girl, while the other works have a certain maturity and convey broader intellectual concepts that spark the imagination. Additionally, Marla seemed to have virtually no interest in painting and had to be aggressively coached into doing so. To this point, the highlight of the film is when she asks her father to help her paint which throws him into an insane rant where he tries to extricate himself from having ever been involved in any of her work. It’s at this point that even the director questions if he can continue to remain unbiased during the making of the film.

My Kid Could Paint That is sure to be an enjoyable film regardless of your interest level in abstract art. Aside from the main story line, it’s also an insightful and entertaining look into society’s obsession with child prodigies, the brevity of fame, and family values.




One response

15 10 2008

Marla’s soul comes out in her paintings. She has a young soul and therefore you should expect her paintings to express that. I have followed her career with a great deal of interest. I find it very revealing that the real profit from her activities have gone to the very people and organizations which have attempted to question her abilities. The illusion of some sort of scam transfers the profits from Marla to the persons who might allude to a scam or fraud.

Being an artist myself, I can attest to the fact that an artist must be true to ones self, not those around them or those who might suggest their lack of skill or a different idea about there work. If Marla’s parents had any clout at all they would have used a different set of responses to turn marla’s career to a more positive outcome. Believe what you will but I choose to suggest that there is real talent in her paintings.


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