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"The soul that can speak through the eyes, can also kiss with a gaze."
~Gustav Adolfo Becquer

Painting Prodigy: Little Picasso or Pretender?

>> Saturday, October 06, 2007



While I was perusing the news, I came across this interesting article. I was originally intending on adding it to the forum piece of my blog, as I haven't updated in there in a while. But while reading this article from ABC News, they mentioned this 'Child Prodigy' being from Upstate New York. Ohhhhh...Binghamton! Tiny little community just South of Syracuse. I lived there for a little bit, years ago.

(Click on picture below to watch trailer of movie about Marla that is coming out.)
'My Kid Could Paint That' Trailer
'My Kid Could Paint That' Trailer

Below is the article:

Painting Prodigy: Little Picasso or Pretender?

New Documentary Leaves Questions Unanswered About 4-Year-Old Painter Marla Olmstead
Oct. 5, 2007 —

Marla Olmstead was only 4 years old when she took the art world by storm. Exalted as a painting prodigy, she was compared by some to Picasso.

Documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev set out to tell the young painter's story and explore what constitutes abstract art. He spent countless hours with Marla and her parents, Laura and Mark, at their home in Binghamton, N.Y.

"We don't actively promote her art at all," Marla's mother, Laura Olmstead, told Kate Snow in an exclusive, live interview on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition." "The only venue to see her art work is a Web site. ... As far as us being here today, it's really just because we feel like we don't want 'My Kid Could Paint That' to be the last true and only word about our family."
The film, released Friday, did not turn out quite like anyone had expected, including Bar-Lev or the Olmsteads.

"The reality is it's a simple story," said Marla's father, Mark Olmstead. "The media takes a story and does what they will with it. Ultimately, there are regrets. ... I felt very much like the pressure that was put on us. And the pressure I put upon Marla, I regret that and I feel a lot to blame."

While he takes the blame for the pressure, Olmstead vehemently denies painting the pictures on his daughter's behalf.

Rise and Fall of a Prodigy

Bar-Lev documented the remarkable rise of the little girl whose paintings sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

He was also there months later, recording the Olmsteads' reaction to a "60 Minutes" report questioning whether Marla had actually painted the artwork alone.

"Either somebody else painted them start to finish or somebody else doctored them up, or Marla just miraculously paints in a completely different way than we see on her home video," said one of the experts in the "60 Minutes" piece.

Some suspected that Marla's father, Mark, who is also an artist, was helping her or completing the paintings.

When Snow asked Olmstead if he ever helped his daughter paint the pictures, he responded, "I think we should define help. I do have to be involved, and I have, because she is -- was -- a one-year-old, two-year-old, three-year-old. And I help her by priming the canvas, by lifting her up over the canvas when she was younger so she could reach certain points, doing the edges, helping her with the paints themselves, as far as getting them in ketchup bottles. From that standpoint, yes, I help."

But he insisted he never painted the canvas.
Laura added that Mark barely offers suggestions to Marla on her work.

"The strongest piece of advice I ever heard him give her, and I think she was 3, was to pull rather than push the brush," she said.

Mark said he's no Picasso either. He's a night manager at a Frito-Lay plant and he's painted a total of four paintings in his life.

Despite the questions raised in the report, the Olmsteads allowed Bar-Lev to continue filming with the belief that he was recording the truth about Marla and that he would tell their side of the story.

"When '60 Minutes' happened, my heart went out to them," Bar-Lev told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden. "But there was a side of me, you know, that said to myself, 'Wow, my documentary just got really interesting.'"

By the end of the film, Bar-Lev had become part of the cast, telling the Olmsteads on camera that he had doubts about whether their daughter painted alone.

When asked whether he thought Marla had painted the pictures, Bar-Lev still hedged.
"I wish I could give you a clear answer to that," he told McFadden. "In my heart of hearts, I have a very hard time believing that a 4-year-old did all of those paintings. But I want to add that I have a very hard time believing that her parents would be behind an exploitation of their kid."

Bar-Lev insisted he doesn't want it "both ways," but in the end, his film never answers the question.

Parents Not Angry

Laura and Mark Olmstead said that despite everything that has happened, they don't regret allowing Bar-Lev into their lives and are not angry with the finished film.
Bar-Lev said he was forthright with the Olmsteads about his doubts while making the film.
"As soon as my doubts reached a point where they were strong enough that it wouldn't have been right to keep them from the Olmsteads, I told them and that's the climax of the film," he said.

Laura has an emotional moment at the end of the film, where she says to Bar-Lev, "I need you to believe me."

Now, she says, she no longer needs him to believe, but she said, "I hope he does."
Laura said Marla has not yet seen the film, adding that she does not know when she will show it to her daughter.

"I think we'll take that as it comes," Laura said. "I think I can't give you an age right now when it would be appropriate. But when she's ready, we'll discuss it and we'll show it to her."
When asked if he thinks Marla will continue to paint, her father said, "Whatever she decides to do, we love our daughter, we love our son, we're going to support them -- whatever."

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures
They have a website dedicated to her with some very interesting stuff. You can check it out here: Marla.
There is debate on whether it is really her that's creating these works, of if her father or someone else is doing it, in order to gain the fame and attention that she has been receiving.
What do you think?

3 Reflections:

Kim 9:29 AM, October 08, 2007  

You know what? I must be hungry. The only thing I got out of that entire story was that fact that I really want some Fritos!

Kim 9:34 AM, October 08, 2007  

Ummm, ok...I just looked at the trailer and didn't see the girl drawing anything more than a normal looking kids picture of a sun. But then, that could have been the way it was edited...trying to make it look like she only drew regular kid stuff as opposed to the modern art she supposedly paints. I dunno. And, honestly, I don't care. Let the kid be a kid.

GreeneyeZZ 10:07 AM, October 08, 2007  

I agree about letting a child *be* a child. From what I understand, that's part of what the debate is about. That, and if she really did paint those without direction for others (read: her father).

I am curious due to this being a local news story. I was thinking on contacting The Palace Theatre, which is walking distance to my house; to see if they would carry that film. Since remodeling the theatre and making a an Artsy kind of place, it would be the perfect venue for something like this.

'Her work' is beautiful though.

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