I finally watched the Marla Olmstead documentary that people have been commenting on in earlier Marla posts here, here, and here. The comments that people have left on earlier posts are very FOR or AGAINST the little “child prodigy” with very few neutral opinions on the whole saga. I still think the art critic Clement Greenberg got it right when he said..
“In visual arts, prodigies don’t count. In music and literature, yes, but not in art.” Clement Greenberg
For those that don’t know, Marla Olmstead is a child painter that quickly rose to fame at the ripe old age of 4, before a 60 Minutes episode doubted the authenticity of Marla’s work. Some of the doubt has since disappeared for some people and she is back in demand with art collectors, selling original paintings for tens of thousands of dollars.
The documentary called “My Kid Could Paint That” by director Amir Bar-Lev seems like a fair and balanced portrayal of Marla and the Olmstead family. The filmmaker seemed to become very attached to the family and struggled to confront them when his suspicions were aroused about who painted the more “polished” works, but he generally let’s the viewer come to their own conclusion.
I felt uncomfortable through a lot of it, especially when Marla’s father was around (most of the film). His performance just wasn’t convincing for me. I think Marla’s an adorable little child, but I didn’t see a child prodigy in the film. Hopefully Marla’s mother will step in when it looks like her child is losing too much of her childhood, as she seemed to have the interests of her child before the money and fame, which is not the same impression that I got from the father.
Here’s a quote from the director Amir Bar-Lev..
“If Marla wasn’t doing the paintings, why would Mark and Laura ever have allowed 60 Minutes to do a piece? Why would they have invited me to make a documentary? Especially given my “deeper truth” speech upon our agreement? Marla had done one sub-par painting – what did that prove? Was it really conceivable that Marla had been propped up in front of a bunch of paintings that she hadn’t done – and hadn’t ever said anything about it? And was it really possible that Mark could hide this from his wife – it would mean that, mysteriously, every time a painting was completed, Laura was out of the house? I had to conclude that the Olmsteads’ version of events was the most likely – or rather, in retrospect, I chose to conclude that – it was far more comfortable than the other, darker scenarios.”
More of Marla Olmstead’s work can be seen at her website here.