Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meet Marla

I'd heard of Marla Olmstead, the child painter whose works sell for thousands of dollars, but I didn't know much about her until last night when we watched a documentary about her and her family.  My Kid Could Paint That follows the story from Marla's first paintings at age two, through the controversy over how much influence her father had on her work and ends without a conclusion about the origin of the works, with Marla still painting at age 6.  The film is a thoughtful look at questions about what art really is and how it's valued by collectors.  The film also addresses how society feels about child prodigies, how families deal with fame, and how the media twists things to keep the public's interest.

The crux of the controversy is whether Marla did the paintings herself or whether her dad helped her.  The media kept trying to film Marla painting but she would, like any little kid, act completely different when the cameras were on her.   In this photo she looks to me like any shy four-year-old.  She's very sweet and shy and clearly loves to paint.  

Her paintings are just like those of other children except that she continues working on them long after most children would have abandoned them.  Plus they're very large and done in quality acrylic paint.  I think they're stunning.  I admire abstract art and have tried to do it myself without much success.  It's obvious to me that Marla is a very talented girl and it doesn't matter a bit, in my opinion, if her father helps by setting up canvasses and giving her specific paint colours to work with and encouraging her to continue working at times.  Here are some of her early paintings.

I think they're gorgeous--and apparently so do many others.  Marla's around age nine now and still painting and selling her art.

Here she's working on a large flower painting.  These images come via Google Image and aren't dated but she's obviously older here.  The painting at the bottom is more sophisticated.  She's developing skills and is working more representationally.  She's a very talented little girl.  I can't decide if her family has been exploiting her or supporting her.  I only hope that she's still able to be a kid.


  1. I always wonder about that too. When she first stared to show her painting I thought her father gave to much help and lead her but who really knows?

    If people like/love the painting and willing to purchase it at a certain price then that is fine as they have seen something that means something to them.
    If your buying a painting for some arbitrary value spit out by a bunch of talking heads then like stocks and the housing market what you buy is what you get. Value is whatever the market allows.
    I also see a big change in her work.

    I only hope she is happy and not being exploited.
    My daughter was born with a pencil and paints in her hands and the growth in her work is amazing. Some people are just wired that way. I hope it is that way with her and she will continue to enjoy painting as she gets older and grows and doesn't burn out to young.

    Interesting post
    cheers, parsnip

  2. You're so right Parsnip about valuing art work because you like it not because it's an investment. My little niece is very artistic too and it's wonderful to see the development in her art.


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