(I’ve been away, but I’m still around)

My Kid Could Paint That is a movie coming out about Marla Olmstead, a 4 year old abstract painter who’s sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of paintings and is (or at least was) taken seriously as an artist within a certain community. Apparently the film focuses more on the question of whether her work is fraudulent than what it would mean if they were her paintings, which is, in a way, an interesting save for the art world, it seems to me. If Marla is the actual creator of the work, then it removes the intellectual component of abstract art completely – not that it was ever up to the artist, exactly, to supply that component, but I suppose there was some fantasy among some portion of the audience that there was something more complex going on in the creative process, and however well played it might have been, at the end of the day, this still quite blatantly admitted that yes, abstract art can just be letting loose with fingerpaints like a two year old. It’s true many adults don’t feel comfortable doing this, and will pay others a lot of money to create the wild unedited id-based splashes neatly captured on clean rectangles, but it is still strange to think that this is our modern day equivalent to Rembrandt. Seeing something like Marla makes you wonder if perhaps that will cause a question mark…

And the fact that the movie is focused around it being a fraud, ie, that her father is really painting them, or helping paint them, seems to discredit the original claim, that it is the art itself that is so impressive, whoever is painting it. If the art is fundamentally genius, it shouldn’t matter whether it is her or her father who creates it, or even a collaboration (though we always seem less comfortable with collaborations). But if people are upset that it may not be Marla’s work, if the value of her work is going down, then it seems to me like underneath it they have realized what they have bought, and are looking for some way to excuse themselves from the embarrassment.

As for the claims of fraud, I would bet it’s just that she’s getting older. A 2 to 4 year old probably paints more abstractly; a 5 or 6 year old probably paints more figures and boring flowers and whatnot. The dad is probably just trying to keep her painting the way she was when she was younger, and she’s just getting bigger and a little less jackson pollock-y in the process. She’s learning to stay within the lines etc, which is exactly not what her genius was meant to be…

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