i’m jealous of marla olmstead


I’m not sure how old Marla Olmstead was when she painted this, but given that she’s only 8 right now I think it’s a safe bet to say she was, well,  somewhere under 8! Depending on what you believe, Marla is either a controversy or a prodigy. I’m going with prodigy… it’s more inspirational that way. You can decide for yourself by watching the documentary about her, “My kid could paint that.”

{November 2009 : After seeing the film again, I’ve written a follow-up post about Marla.}

comments (172)

  1. James /// 05.01.2009 /// 7:10am

    You’re going with the lie because it makes you feel better. At least you’re upfront about that. Marla (the business) is a fraud and the documentary demonstrates that, especially when it juxtaposes the Ocean and Flowers paintings with the other more polished works.

  2. The Jealous Curator /// 05.01.2009 /// 10:35am

    You know, you’re right. After I watched the documentary I was totally torn. I so wanted to believe that she had done all of the work herself, but I honestly came away not convinced that she did. Even so, let’s say she didn’t do the more polished pieces – the other ones that she was taped creating are still pretty beautiful to be coming from 4 year old. I hope it’s not a fraud, for Marla’s sake. A kid shouldn’t have to be put through all of this… just let her paint if that’s what she loves doing.

  3. rito /// 05.06.2009 /// 11:15am

    i find it very cynical to assume that the jealous curator is “going with a lie” simply because he, or she, has decided to go with whatever he, or she, chooses. isn’t that the nature of being torn, or on the fence. in fact, there really isn’t any proof either way. 60 minutes aired this story where ellen winner critiqued marla’s work. however, no matter how much of an expert mrs. winner is she is still just one person. hasn’t anyone ever heard of the idea of getting a second opinion? it would be easy for the olmsteads to find an expert to say the opposite of what mrs. winner said. and there is a slight chance that marla has intelligence that surpasses her ability to understand her role in this story; perhaps she really does feel uncomfortable in front of cameras and doesn’t know if it is okay for her to feel that way. which would explain why she does just say that. on the other side of the coin, why hasn’t marla been interviewed, and if she has, why don’t they show her saying whether or not her dad coaches her? they do show her asking her dad questions while she paints, and she’s seems so willing to say what some would say “incriminates” her dad while painting. this could be a child messing with or defying her father the way we all know not just kids, but all people do. why isn’t there any footage of her outright saying it? here are two answers: because the parents didn’t let her answer questions on film, but we know that’s not true; you would know if you’ve watched the 60 minutes piece or the movie. the second answer is that she has never said that, or that she answered “no” when asked. this response would have discredit both the 60 minutes piece and the desired drama of the movie. never the less, there is no proof either way. there is one thing for certain, though, since this issue has been raised no one will ever look at her pieces the way they did or would have before the controversy. we will all compare the filmed pieces to the unfilmed pieces and not so much find the truth, as we will reinforce the decision we’ve already made about the possibility of her being the painter. in the end, i agree with the jealous curator, let the girl paint.

  4. The Jealous Curator /// 05.06.2009 /// 12:55pm

    Obviously this documentary has a lot of people thinking. Thanks rito for your comments. I think in the end what this comes down to is the strange beast that is “art”. Why is some art valuable/famous and some not? If Marla’s father, an artist himself, had in fact done all of these paintings by himself, and claimed them as his own, they probably wouldn’t be selling for $15,000 – $30,000… But it’s the same work. So what you’re paying tens of thousands of dollars for is the story behind the piece. The fact that a 4 year old did it (if that’s what you choose to believe). I know that for myself if I love a piece, I love a piece. Don’t get me wrong, I always like a good story behind it, but either the image makes me jealous or it doesn’t. In this case, I love these paintings… regardless of who did them.

  5. creepy d /// 06.10.2009 /// 7:31am

    I just watched the documentary. The father was a salesman and the mother came off as an unctuous mock-modest. They were heavy in the slickness and light in the sheer astonishment that you would think would accompany having a four-year-old who could produce such adult paintings.

    The story, if true, should have been pure and simple: A child produces highly developed, mature, abstract paintings–that is all. Instead of what should be a simple truth you get convolutions and obfuscations from both the parents and their art/gallery representative.

    If they had right out of the box stated that the paintings were collaborations between the child and the father, I would still find the work interesting, which it is. It’s a sadder comment about the art market and the role of art in our society that the parents felt the work could only be successful by means of dissimulation through their own daughter.

  6. The Jealous Curator /// 06.10.2009 /// 7:31pm

    I agree. I don’t really think all of this attention/uproar is really about Marla. I think she’s an unfortunate spotlight on a very, very, very long debate about art… what is art? Why is some art considered more special than other art? Should things cost more if there’s a fancy story behind it? Are we all just being tricked by fast-talking gallery owners? I’ve said this already but I’ll say it again, I think art should be judged by each person that looks at it. It’s so subjective and so individual. If you really love Marla’s paintings then just stop there. Does it really matter who did the final few brush strokes? Well, maybe it does if you paid $30,000 for a story that may or may not be true. Sigh, my head is starting to hurt… and the debate continues…

  7. ClaireJane /// 06.21.2009 /// 9:16pm

    I just watched the movie “My kid…” and I have, like most viewers, serious doubts about Marla being the sole author of those paintings. But beyond that question lies another question that, to my sense, is even more important than the debate surrounding the authenticity of the paintings. Forget for a minute whether or not those paintings are Marla’s only, and wonder : why on earth did her parents decide to make money out of them? Look at the website they created in Marla’s name… They turn their daughter into a business. Each painting featured online is either “sold”, or “available”… Marla’s face appears on each of the pages… She’s obviously way to young to object, or even understand what it means in terms of privacy – the fact is her image is being used to sell a product. In the documentary, the father speaks about “the productivity of his daughter” and his fear of “not meeting the demand”. Sure, the mother (whom I found particularly hypocritical) complains about “putting her daughter through that”, but she was the first one to sold a painting of her then 2-year old for $250… She says “Marla enjoys to paint, and that’s all that matters…” Sure, but why does she have to paint for clients ? Is money the only way to reward whatever talent she has? The parents could have waited for Marla’s to be old enough to decide what she wants to do with her paintings. But no, no no no. Marla’s cute now… She can make big bucks now. This documentary sure tells a lot about art – it is also pretty revealing of a society obsessed with fame and money.

  8. The Jealous Curator /// 06.22.2009 /// 9:08am

    Good point Claire. The impression I got was that it started out as a fun idea by a friend with empty coffee shop walls, but I think it got away from them when the gallery world got involved. They probably should have stopped it at the coffee shop. I’m sure Marla wouldn’t have cared! When I was 3 I did a pastel drawing of a bird and my dad said it was good enough to frame. He did and I was thrilled… I still have it up in my house actually. That’s probably all Marla really needed in order to feel proud of herself. It would be nice if they would stop selling them (and her), truly let her paint for fun, and then when she’s older let her decide what she wants to do with her talent. Even if they stopped today, Marla’s already got her tuition for art college covered without ever having to flip a burger! Maybe that should be enough.

  9. Diane /// 06.22.2009 /// 10:48am

    As an artist, I enjoyed watching her paint on the documentary. Is she an authentic artist? Of course! Many children are. Before they become jaded and worried about impressing others. That is my concern: Will she still be painting in 20 years, or will she come to loathe it?

    The parents didn’t present very well. Exploitation was writ large.

  10. rick /// 06.22.2009 /// 10:51am

    I don’t know how much the kid does or doesn’t paint on her own. What I do know is it ain’t that great. It’s simple color field filling. to compare it to picasso is a joke. When Picasso was her age he could render pencil drawings more lifelike and realistic than most professors at art institutes. If those paintings are trully done by her, they aren’t much more than pretty wall hangings that you can find in any low level gallery. There not art, they’ve been done before.

  11. Rocco Vadala /// 06.22.2009 /// 10:59am

    I just finished watching the documentary about Marla Olmstead. First off, I can say without any hesitation that Marla is the Artist. To those who say her work looks different now then when she was four, I remind you that she is seeing more now, she is thinking more now, she may have been the best she will ever be in painting at the age of four or we may not have seen the best she has to offer, but either way, she has evolved and her mind is expanding. Who knows, she may not even have an interest in art or painting anymore, but we do know this. That Marla has forever made her mark on the Art World. I have not seen any recent paintings by Marla, but look forward to someday. I hope that the art community celebrates her for what she is-a child who loves to create. Stop disecting her.

  12. Stephan /// 06.27.2009 /// 3:40am

    This movie says a whole lot more about the art world than it does about Marla. Whether Marla painted those pictures is immaterial in the end.
    As for Ocean being very similar to the 60minutes piece, there are plenty of explanations for that. The one I like to believe is that Marla lost her innocence, and started performing on cue. i.e. she started “trying to be a painter”; much like concentrating really hard on hitting the right keys after knowing by muscle memory where the piano keys are.
    The convenient one for the “literati” though (and I guess the public at large) is that the parents perpetrated a fraud. It’s much easier to scapegoat the parents than to look inward at your own bullshit multi-million dollar Christies’ yardsales.

  13. Andrea /// 08.25.2009 /// 7:26pm

    I wonder how many people judging Marla and her family have children?

    Anyone with children knows it is impossible for a child to keep up a ‘lie’ for so long. She would have said “Daddy did that!” Or “Daddy helped me!” or “I didn’t do that!” to any of the many other adults involved in her life. I have to agree with Rocco Vadala; her drastic change in style is a testament to her growing up. Most teachers (and parents) see that as kids age they become less spontaneous, second guess themselves and think too hard. Marla was doing the same because she is a normal child.

    I like a good portion of her early work; it’s not new or innovative – it’s just colorful and fun – and I am really fussy about abstract art.

  14. The Jealous Curator /// 08.25.2009 /// 8:06pm

    That’s a very good point Andrea. I don’t think a kid could ‘lie’ for that long. At one point she did say ‘Daddy you just do it!’, or something like that, but a kid would say that about anything if they were getting tired or frustrated…. or filmed by a crew from 60 Minutes! I also agree with you about her earlier work. It is so fun, colourful, and carefree. That’s exactly why I wrote about being jealous of her in the first place. To have the freedom to glob on a bunch of turquoise paint beside a smear of hot pink and not even care if it’s ‘working’. I would love to feel like that with a brush in my hand.

  15. koren /// 09.01.2009 /// 4:44am

    You can! If the documentary teaches us anything, perhaps it’s that when it comes to personal esthetic judgments, nobody is any more qualified than anybody else to say what actually constitutes ‘art’. If you’re painting for money, of course, that complicates things…but if you’re painting for yourself, what’s wrong with turning off the inner critic and letting the inspiration flow? Life is short, and painting is fun. The thrill of watching Marla to me is that she’s either unaware of critical opinion, or isn’t yet old enough to care. The result is that her work holds a purity of joy that you don’t often see in the angst-ridden world of adults (except perhaps in the rare exceptional artist who holds on to a part of childlike spirit against all odds, like Gillian Ayres or Paul Klee.) That’s the spirit that I chose to take away from the whole mess. After all, her parents may scheme and/or gnash their teeth in shame, the art world may call her a prodigy or a fraud…but Marla keeps on painting what she likes, and seems to enjoy it immensely. Who’s really coming out ahead?

  16. The Jealous Curator /// 09.01.2009 /// 12:41pm

    Thanks Koren! What an inspiring view to take.
    Ok inner-critic… sit down and shut up. It’s time to start painting like I did when I was four! Back in the days when I didn’t think/plan/’conceptualize’, I just tried to get as messy as I could before my mom told me to STOP!!!
    I’ll keep you posted on whether I can pull this off or not… that inner-critic is pretty damn loud. Actually, one of the best quotes about this subject was from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. It goes something like this… ‘Artists are people who have learned to live with self doubt and do the work anyway.’ Love that. I have it up on my fridge.

  17. Jenny /// 09.29.2009 /// 4:56pm

    I saw that movie and the whole 60 minutes show made me crazy. How is a child psychologist qualified to say what constitutes Art? She’s not, no matter how many letters she has after her name. Art is a language like music and its either understood or its not. Abstract Art is waaaaay harder to do well than it looks. Harder than realism in my humble opinion. Anyone who thinks they could do as good a job because its ‘just paint splatters’ should give it a try and prepare for disappointment. Even if it is a tag team effort with Pa, it is still great.

    Thanks for letting me vent, this has ticked me off for a while,

    love your site!

  18. The Jealous Curator /// 09.29.2009 /// 7:04pm

    By all means Jenny, vent away. It’s amazing the reaction this film gets. People always have a very strong opinion one way or the other. And I agree, abstract is really hard to do well. It can quickly look like ‘just paint splatters’ if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, the truly gifted artists have a magical way with colour choices and composition. Marla is one of those people… even if she gets a bit of help from dear old dad (I still can’t decide about that – probably never will).

  19. uncle joe mccarthy /// 10.21.2009 /// 2:13am

    what the doc and many comments on this blog prove, is that there is a sucker born every minute

    the gallery owner basically states that the lie that is marla was created to prove that modern art is all bs

    there have been and are child art prodigies, as there are child prodigies in many fields….marla is not one of them

    if you want to see evidence of a true child art prodigy, google alexandra nechita

  20. The Jealous Curator /// 10.21.2009 /// 8:56am

    I will go and check her out. Thanks.

  21. KR /// 10.21.2009 /// 6:45am

    Let’s see the kid paint or draw a *representational* picture before deciding she’s a ‘prodigy.’ If she had picked up a pencil or piece of charcoal and had spontaneously drawn a portrait of mom or dad or something and the result was equal to other artistic geniuses, I’d be inclined to take her seriously. I drew a copy of an Albrecht Durer drawing at the age of 10, of my own volition, no parental coaching.

  22. The Jealous Curator /// 10.21.2009 /// 8:52am

    But why would she only be considered a prodigy if she could do *representational* art? Some of the most amazing artists in history couldn’t do representational, but were masters when it came to other styles / types of art. Again, it’s totally subjective and comes down to what each person considers ‘art’. Some people don’t consider abstract art ‘real art’ no matter who it was done by… a child or a great master. I have never been a huge fan of abstract art myself, but I actually genuinely like Marla’s paintings (whether she did them herself or not). I love the colour choices, the composition and the huge amounts of paint so freely applied.

  23. reverie /// 10.23.2009 /// 12:27pm

    I just finished watching the documentary about cute Marla – but I came away thinking it was more about dishonesty than modern art. In essence, someone was trying to pass off a product ‘x’ under the guises of it actually being product ‘y’ and doing so to make a profit (money, attention, prestiege – whatever).
    The tragedy is the stakes were so high – in the end, the parents HAD to believe their own con because the dissonance of realizing they had used their children in such a creepy way was too painful. Very sad.
    But I think the question about what makes something beautiful is a bit rhetorical – and if thinking a particular work of art was created by a 4 year-old-prodigy makes it more beautiful to people with more money than sense, then I think is really ok. Why not? But being dishonest to those willing to invest in something like that is wrong. It was a great documentary!

  24. The Jealous Curator /// 10.23.2009 /// 7:10pm

    Yes, it really is such a good documentary isn’t it? Even better than what the director, Amir Bar-Lev, set out to create I’m quite sure. He wasn’t expecting the controversy, just an inspiring story about a kid who could paint… thank you 60 Minutes for showing up mid-movie and flipping this story on it’s head! As I’ve said before, by the end of the film I really had no idea what the truth was, hence why it’s a great documentary I suppose. If the answer was actually exposed I don’t think there’d still be this much discussion going on about it. I do feel sad for Marla though, after all she’s a real person, not a character in a great film. If she is legit, it’s sad that the world now doubts her talent. If she’s not legit, it’s sad that a kid who loved to paint has been made to look like a huge fraud through no fault of her own.

  25. amanda /// 10.31.2009 /// 6:57am

    A very interesting discussion that to me only further proves that we live in a society trained to believe the unbelievable which is why stories like these are told and every other “reality” make believe story ever sold… and so children continue to be forever exploited…in this story, unlike others, the fraud is on her fathers face throughout the documentary, which may be why it hasn’t transitioned into reality tv because he would probably eventually buckle,and it is specially obvious at the end when Marla asks him to help her because that is what she is used to when she paints…guilty face or not, the undeniable fact is that the three paintings documented are very similar in their randomness yet so different from others like “four” with perfect squares and lines which have been obviously setup by someone else, and I don’t mean her baby brother…marla didn’t paint perfect shapes, she swirled and thrashed her strokes just like a kid… would it be so bad to just let her paint her world, beautiful in its randomness, even if the paintings sold for thousands less? Koko has done it. And to those who say the proof this story is real is that kids couldn’t keep a lie like that were obviously never asked to lie, a doting child would do anything to keep a parent happy…behold the balloon boy just another proxy story in the making.

  26. Rattina /// 11.04.2009 /// 8:47pm

    Has no one noticed that there was a picture shown (briefly) in the documentary that the dad did?.. a really unremarkable pencil or charcoal portrait.. The pictures that Marla did are absolutely wonderful! If dad could paint like that he would have been doing so, there would be some remarkable work by him to compare to the Marla paintings, there was nothing. Surely someone would have seen his work over the years. How do you “coach” a 4 year old to paint something terrific? “Put some white there,” or how about you drip some blue, Marla”? Coached, the results would not have had anything like the liveliness, the color vigor, the movement, the sheer joy of what she did. The paintings themselves knocked me out and it had nothing to do with them being done by a child–that was just a marvelous attachment. . I’ve seen a lot of abstract art on the walls of galleries and museums that did not have the kind of engaging impact that the Marla paintings did. If people really think their child could do as well, let’s see the work.
    I’ve always loved children’s poetry, drawings, work of all kinds because it’s apt to be much more direct, unselfconscious, often surprising. But I have never seen paintings as wonderful as those by Marla, which could hang on a wall, unattributed, and still command respect.
    The “adult” art world is filled with hype and bullpucky.. three basketballs in a fish tank can sell for half a million pounds.. Just letting the artwork speak for itself is almost a forgotten concept. I think the Marla paintings stand on their own, wherever they came from and my vote is, they came from Marla.

  27. The Jealous Curator /// 11.04.2009 /// 9:03pm

    Bullpucky! I love it! I totally agree with you, on two points:

    One) Let the art speak for itself. If you love it, you love it… the end. And hey, if someone loves three basketballs in a fish tank then by all means, enjoy! This is the point. Art is subjective. A piece of art will never be loved by everyone, nor should it have to be. Arguing about what is good art/real art/valid art is a pointless debate… that’s why I stopped talking about half way through my undergrad.

    Two) Yeah, I love the innocence of art that is created by children. They have such an uncensored, fresh, and most importantly fun approach to making ‘stuff’. I try very hard to remember how much fun I had painting, drawing, gluing etc as a kid but it’s very hard to bring that into my current work. I blame it on the years of debating about what makes one piece of art good vs another!

  28. Kelly /// 11.08.2009 /// 12:26pm

    Very interesting debate… What about when Marla says before the Stuart Gallery opening that her brother Zane did “the green one?” Did the filmmaker address this further, I can’t remember…

  29. The Jealous Curator /// 11.08.2009 /// 12:47pm

    I can’t remember either… maybe I’ll watch it again tonight. I’ll get back to you ; )

  30. The Jealous Curator /// 11.09.2009 /// 8:14pm

    Yes. She did say that “Zane did the green one. I didn’t do anything on that one, Zane did it all”… something like that. But then it was just left at that. I think the editing in this film set out to make the viewers doubt Marla. Makes a better movie. They showed that clip about the green one to make people start to question all of her work, and if they were going to include it then they should have followed up on it. Was the green painting even in the show? My money is on no. And who knows, maybe it didn’t even exist – it could have just been Marla being a 4 year old trying to deflect a little unwanted attention. Kids do that kind of thing all the time… and I’m guessing that a busy press schedule, stressed parents and a camera in your face would heighten that even more.

  31. James /// 11.08.2009 /// 8:13pm

    Two thoughts. One, time and again the curator and the dad effectively give up the game that it is a fraud. The curator through his words and the dad through his obvious body language and unacceptable explanations. If you don’t accept that, that is because you refuse to believe what you see and hear.

    Two, the documentry is clearly a damnation of the art world. Ultimately, the painting is the painting. Does it matter if it is Marla, the dad, the curator, or Jim Smith? It shouldn’t because the painting is the painting and will not change one bit regardless who it was ultamately that painted it. The value shouldn’t change one bit if it turns out to be someone other than Marla but we all know it will. Why? Because the art world is pretencious and fake. It’s clever to own are done by a 4 year old but pedestrian if done by a 40 year old white man.

  32. The Jealous Curator /// 11.08.2009 /// 10:20pm

    Yep. A good story will pretty much always up the price tag.

  33. Tim /// 11.27.2009 /// 6:51am

    Just viewed the documentary and read all these posts; and now am more confused than necessary. I will say I find the work strong, moving, and impressively varied in it’s textures and patterns and colors. The more recent work on the website shows an evolving intellect, and whether that is good or bad is up to the individual.

    For the father to mastermind this sudden ability to produce such fresh work is not logical; nor the ability to show a natural maturation of technique and style. Also, the lack of duplication in the work speaks of someone not thinking too much and most adult artists latch onto a pattern especially when not trying to. Anyone who has attempted to produce work like this often creates a mess. You can not deny this work has a voice and my vote is it is mostly the kids.

    As far as condemning the art world…the market is the market…hopefully the parents are investing for the kids wisely and she enjoys her life to the fullest.

  34. The Jealous Curator /// 11.27.2009 /// 8:37am

    Bravo. Love your point of view Tim. I totally agree.

  35. freddo /// 12.06.2009 /// 2:47pm

    There is no doubt in my mind that Pops was “helping out” in the early stages by adding color in a balanced manner. Marla generally doesn’t give a hoot about balance, its a more mature desire. Not good or bad really. Just a need that is more adult. So Marla at age 2 would paint and then Dad would finish.

    Later paintings are all Marla. She has talent. Will she continue to develop? I hope so. My guess is that in a couple of years she will be painting elaborate fantasy paintings of horses with wings. Just a guess.

  36. RJ /// 02.20.2010 /// 9:45am

    What if… Would Marla’s artwork have been as successful if it had not been promoted as a ‘4 year old protegy’ masterpiece? In the schwing and schlop we can imagine all sorts of things. Her acclaimed work brings out our own child like imagination and creativity. What would today be like for Marla if she had not been brought to the center of the circus ring? Just another beautiful little girl playing with paints and brushes. Come on guys, Art for art’s sake. Get with it.

  37. Catherine /// 03.14.2010 /// 6:25pm

    All we need to do is wait another 10 years. In the meantime if you like the paitings, buy them, enjoy them & don’t worry. Or ask Marla’s art teacher at school. 😉

    I’d be proud and honoured to own a Marla.

    Keep on painting Marla!!!!

  38. oliviera /// 03.23.2010 /// 9:51pm

    I can’t believe that people had an extra 20 million to burn on an abstract piece of canvas at the sotheby’s art auction.

    All the while a large portion of the world is suffering due to hunger, disease and extreme poverty.

    And yet they keep jabbing at the middle classes to keep on donating our comparitively meagre earnings to all kinds of charities which could be funded quite easily by the ‘rothschild’ class.

  39. david /// 03.31.2010 /// 1:41am

    As an artist and a father, I understand exactly where Marla’s father was coming from. I wanted to encourage my kids to draw and paint from the minute they were old enough to hold a crayon. It is not a ‘pushy thing to do, it is simply a hope that your children will get the same joy out of art that you do yourself. I think the child has a natural instinct for colour and form and i would offer the opportunity to her detractors to produce anything close to the quality of work this little Artist does. incidently my own two, whilst highly enthusiastic, never
    produced anything like the quality of Marla’s work. If you don’t like it don’t eat it, as my mom used to say.

  40. The Jealous Curator /// 03.31.2010 /// 6:17am

    Thanks David. Great perspective! My mother was a very successful artist and had me mixing colours at 18 months. She always said I was just born knowing how to make art… granted, I didn’t sell any of my childhood ‘works’ for $20,000, nor any of my adult works for that matter! Well, regardless of the lack of huge sales, I have loved art my whole life, and I’m thankful to my mom for always making it so accessible to me. Hopefully Marla will feel the same way.

  41. Sharon /// 04.01.2010 /// 1:42pm

    I’ve just watched the video on bbc iplayer and honestly at one point during the film, I actually gasped out loud – I do believe the father was coercing Marla into painting what he considered to be the ‘right way’ – I have never been a fan of abstract paintings – I don’t really get them – and I really appreciate all forms of art, however, initially I was as enthralled as everyone else seemed to be, but the more indepth the filming became, the shiftier the father seemed to behave – he didn’t convince me of his innocence – he didn’t exclaim outloud the outrage at his daughter being declared a fraud – he was very quiet – his eyes were moving left and right, and at the end of filming, it was only the wife who insisted she would take a polygraph – once again the father turned away, perhaps dreading the outcome if he had to take it. The innocent victim is Marla, to me she’s just a child who paints and is encouraged by her father to do certain things with the paint… there’s no genius there, we could all spend endless hours allowing our children to paint if we had the time….

  42. thomas anderson /// 06.21.2010 /// 7:04pm

    I saw the documentary a couple of years ago and now I’m looking for verification one way or the other. This is now 2010 and Marla is still painting.

    I think she is the painter for a few simple reasons.

    Only once in the movie did she ever say anything in regards to not having painted a picture and then it was only that her brother had helped. At no time did she ever say I don’t do the paintings or, my dad does the paintings. As we all no, children are very unpredictable about what they will say, and very candid. The film makers seemed very inclined to push the controversy and yet they have no other footage of Marla saying she did not, or her father did, do the paintings.

    Marla is still painting. She is ten. She is selling painting for tens of thousands of dollars. By now she is old enough to understand the implications of the fraud that her father would be perpetrating. Yet she has still not said she does not do the paintings.

    Also, people who spend this much money on paintings don’t like to get taken for a ride. They may be lawyers or have very good lawyers on retainer. I’m sure the father is well aware of this, as would anyone who isn’t a half whit. So if you were perpetrating a fraud with your daughter who is four, you would also know that at some time the child is going to blow the ruse.

    Marla is still painting and getting better, and still selling and no one has produced a smoking gun that proves she doesn’t do the painting.
    Anyone can spceculate what they want from what the people who made the documentary decided to show the veiwer. It is virtually irelevent what the parents reactions are, or what this person or that person ‘thinks’.
    What is relevant is that Marla has never said she doesn’t do the paintings, or that her father does do the paintings and that after six years no one has sued for fraud.

  43. patti /// 04.07.2011 /// 9:59am

    I’m not an artist but I do have an observation/question.
    I believe that at some point in the film it was mentioned that the paints were oils. Don’t oils take a while to dry and couldn’t the father have changed things around a bit on the canvas after Marla left the room rather than while Marla was actually painting? She would never have to reveal or lie, then.

  44. the jealous curator /// 04.07.2011 /// 3:50pm

    i guess anything is possible… i would hope that’s not the case though : (

  45. Charlotte /// 04.14.2011 /// 9:53am

    I’ve just watched it.

    To the people who consider the fact that she hasn’t blurted out the truth as proof that her father is not lying – I have a 5 year old girl. Children that age are very good at picking up on secrets. They understand things that should not be said. It is extremely easy to brain-wash a four-year old. If she is told often enough that she painted the pictures, she will simply begin to believe it – or keep schtum. Note her discomfort with talking about painting. She doesn’t like it. She knows that it is a tense and dangerous subject.

    The paintings she does on film are completely different in technique to the others. I have now seen three films of her painting and in not one of them has she shown an ability or interest in using the brushstrokes and balance that ‘she’ uses in the others.

    Her father actually had to start getting cross with her when she wasn’t painting the whole canvas. Twice she said that she had finished paintings when they were only part painted.

    The father is an appalling liar. When Marla says irritably that she wants him to either finish it, tell her what to do or let her leave it he goes on and on and on. They have been given numerous opportunities to prove Marla paints those pictures and they have not – the paintings are always distinctly different in style and ability.

    I think what happened is that Marla and Daddy had a fun day painting one day. Marla did most of it and Daddy made a few suggestions. Mom came home and was really impressed. The cafe owner starts to get interest for them and Dad can’t now admit he’s been painting over the canvases. Mom begins to suspect but is one of those women who excels in not seeing what is in front of her if it is inconvenient. Dad, a vain and arrogant man enjoys the money and mostly the fame. He also enjoys HIS artwork being lauded – even if he can’t admit it is his. He gets more into it. Paints more – Marla’s involvement becomes less and less. She daubs a bit of paint on, goes for a nap and Dad finishes it off.

    Mostly I’m worried about poor little Marla – a sweet child, but I’m also worried about her little brother – the sibling of a ‘genius’ and a child who gets swept aside. “But Zane’s paintings won’t be in the show” declares Marla with typical sibling competativeness. Does the father step in and remind us what Zane is good at? Or that his paintings are just as good? No – and the little boy looks crestfallen.

  46. peggy /// 05.19.2011 /// 8:30am

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  47. Victoria /// 07.06.2011 /// 11:25am

    I totally agree with Charlotte. Kids learn at an early age what things to say and not to say. Otherwise, how is it so many children are victims of crimes that remain a secret until they become adults? Think about it. I believe Marla’s father coaches her and when necessary completes her works. I believe her art is a fraud and some day the truth is going to come out. And when it does, the one to suffer most will be Marla.

  48. Baker /// 11.05.2011 /// 1:38pm

    Ok, my two cents. I agree with Charlotte! Every time Marla was shown actually painting, her color mixes are completely MUDDY and her brushwork without any degree of finesse at all. She doesn’t appear (and at age 4, why would she!?!) to have the attention span to do work with depth of the majority of the work, much of which is very controlled subtle layering. They called it “polish”. Dad has all the earmarks of CONTROL FREAK, mom is as much a pawn as the kid. Will be interested to see what happens with the family in the future, I find it fascinating for some reason…..

  49. the jealous curator /// 11.05.2011 /// 5:48pm

    I know… so do I (and clearly, so do a WHOLE bunch of other people). I guess we’ll never really know, unless at 18 Marla comes out and tells her side of the story. We’ll have to wait and see I suppose.

  50. Kouki /// 11.07.2011 /// 6:16pm

    well i think it a fraud .. for so many reasons ..
    -why can’t they just tape the whole drawing process
    -seeing other childish drawings she did .. specially the one drawn by chalks on floor i guess .. and the unfinished drawing ..
    -and many other reasons that people mentioned up there..

    anyway i want to make something clear here
    –some people say that it doesn’t matter who draws all that paintings ,if you like them .. well i say this is wrong .. artists are the main influential factor here … when i buy a piece of art that i like i am 100% interested in that person who did that piece because it represent him .. his/her feelings ..etc .. so if by a chance i bought one of marla’s works …i’ll put it where everyone can see it and say “this is the work of a lil genius” so definitely i would have paid more for it .. because for me it holds more value ~

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    The movie is very well done, and the added features on the DVD are must see. In think the discussion says as much about us as it does about Marla and her family. For instance, one commenter here says that the mother is “unctuous” and falsely modest. Huh? I found her to be a very concerned, intelligent woman and parent, and I especially liked that she wanted Marla to have a natural childhood, including a natural (i.e. not staged) love of painting. Sure, after the 60 Minutes expose’, the Olmsteads found themselves entangled in a more complicated situation than when the local gallery started to sell Marla’s work. After that, “My Kid Could Paint That” becomes a very educational, if difficult, film about art, artistic intention, artist as celebrity, authenticity, and genius.

    I have no reason to disbelieve the parents when they say they did not help Marla paint. Clearly, some of those paintings are very effective by virtue of how a wide range of people respond to them. Marla has real painting ability.

    But did Marla get “too much” help? Has any artist thrived without some kind of coaching or input? Certainly that is one of the myths of genius: it explodes from the forehead and requires no practice or development. But successful artists from Thomas Kincaid (not my favorite) to Georgia O’Keefe have, at some late point in their careers, had assistants carry out their visions by applying the material themselves. By all indications, Marla was applying the material herself, and her paintings developed over time. She clearly has a gift for color and a certain dynamism that is more than a child’s typical scrawl. As a painter myself, I can say that I’ve had paintings that I did relatively quickly and alone, and I’ve had paintings that went through a few critiques–and a few layers of paint–before they were finished. I think that’s typical of art-making–we have those gifts, and we have those “works” that take shape slowly.

    One thing I noticed was that Marla would often paint on a dark underpainting. She’s not the first to do that, of course, but I wonder who made that “choice” for her. I also noticed that her father’s paintings were nothing like hers in style or subject matter. In fact, the father’s work looks like the kind of thing we often see hanging in cafes–surrealistic or primitive faces and figures. How much coaching could this kind of painter provide his gifted daughter?

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