This films explores a number of questions:
- Did Marla create the paintings all by herself?
- What is abstract art?
- What is the motivation of the media?
- What is the motivation of Marla's parents?
Do I think Marla painted the pictures by herself? Probably not. The documentary shows Marla mixing mud, and she doesn't seem particularly interested in art or painting. But it doesn't really matter what I or anyone else thinks. If Marla is a prodigy and is destined to become a great painter, she will become one. If she isn't, she won't. In either case, hopefully the pressure of her early success won't destroy her. It must be tough to be a has-been by age 12.
The film also asks "What is abstract art?". Is it amazing that a 4-year old can create abstract art that would fit right in at MOMA? Or is the fact that a 4-year old can create abstract art that would fit right in at MOMA say that there isn't much to abstract art?
The motivation of both the media and Marla's parents is explored. When the media first discovers Marla, she is praised as a child prodigy. After the 60 Minutes piece, she and her parents are torn down. The media always needs fresh and interesting news to keep viewers engaged and keep ratings up. Tearing down a star, hero, or celebrity is good for ratings. Finally, the motivation of Marla's parents needs to be questioned. Do they want the money? The fame? Are they really selflessly promoting Marla for her own good? Does a 4 year old care about all of this?
This film is thought-provoking and enjoyable, and Marla's paintings are pleasing to the eye. I recommend this documentary highly.
Here are some web references:
Child Painter Marla Olmstead, Art News Blog
Marla Olmstead Website, Official Marla Olmstead Website
Marla Olmstead, Wikipedia.
My Kid Could Paint That, Amazon.com
My Kid Could Paint That, Official Sony Pictures Website
New Questions About Child Prodigy, 60 Minutes