Friday, November 18, 2011

A New Commission

My friend Nancy again wants to hire out my skills!  This year for Christmas she wants a drawing of her parents. How sweet!  I am excited to work on it and excited to do something for her again. She's also interested in making prints of it to give to her siblings, another awesome gift idea. (and again I need to figure out this "print" thing.) 

I have about a month to complete the drawing, so let's hope my life settles down a little bit more so I can devote more time to art.  I'm excited!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Kid Could Paint That: Documentary on Marla Olmstead

As I was browsing the DVD shelves at the library the other day I cam across the movie "My Kid Could Paint That" a film documentary about the little girl Marla Olmstead who paints abstract paintings and became really famous back in 2004-2005, especially with her 60 minute spotlight which put the authenticity of her paintings into the spotlight.
I remember talking about this little girl in a few of my art classes in college, specifically in my Art Criticism class. We talked about her because that class is all about "What defines art?  What is art?"  and all that goes along with those questions.

This little girl sold several pieces for thousands upon thousands of dollars by the time she was 5!  Does this child really create works of art worth more than many other professional contemporary artists are fetching?

While this movie was not about the art world (which is what I originally thought this movie was about) it does make you think.  The movie is really about whether or not you really believe this little girl did all of her paintings by herself or if her dad's coaching was more than "coaching."  I have to admit I am skeptical.  Some pieces just seemed too balanced, the texture too uniform, the ideas too complete for an innocent pre-schooler to put together.  Plus, I get the feeling from the video that the dad is lying?

Here's a little glimspe into the video and Marla:
They have recorded Marla completing two different paintings on film, one that was featured on 60 Minutes, the other by her father at home.  Here is the latter one:
It certainly looks like a painting done by a 4 year old right? And so do several of her other works like these:
But some are just too nice it makes us begin to question if they were really done by a 2-5 year old girl.  Of course if they are indeed what they claim to be, they are awesome! So, take a look:

Remind you of Jackson Pollock in that one^? Or is that just me?

Don't they look pretty awesome?  I mean they revel some great abstract painters of the past and present, like Pollock, Monet!  The color choices seem direct, well thought out, planned.  The patterns intentional and planned from the beginning (this one will be smudges, this one splashes of paint).  The last one is very impressive with its precise repeated pattern.

If Marla did make all of these completely by herself, it is impressive.  Makes me think we should give all children abundant painting supplies and pre-stretched canvases and see what they can create when they are uninhibited.  I do think that we stifle kids creativity too much with boundaries and limiting assignments.  I love that because she is so young when she began that she would not have those inhibitions that even slightly older kids begin to have, often trying to please someone, i.e. a parent, friend or teacher.

Also, if she did in fact make these pieces, what does it say about those currently creating abstract art as professional painters?  This is the question I really wished the documentary would have addressed more thoroughly.  Does the fact that a little girl can create and sell works at par with a professional artist lessen the work of thousands of artists practicing today?  Or is art just art and who created it of no consequence?  I believe the artist behind the piece is very important (see my post on Jackson Pollock if you don't believe me).  Also, Michael Kimmelman gives a great lesson on modern art and contemporary art that is easy for everyone to understand and isn't so elitist about today's art, which I appreciate.  It's in the bonus features. 

One of the things brought up in the video (in the bonus features) which I think is important, is that Marla was not making her own canvases.  She was not deciding to do a triptych. She was not deciding how big it should be or any of the dimensions.  She may not have even selected her own paint colors or brand of paints, or what brushes or other tools she used.  These things are important to art because of the implied intentions.  While small, it does make a difference.  She cannot engage her patrons with talk about her artwork adequately (or at all!).  She most likely has help naming them too.  Her father has at time even coached her (though I was "coached" frequently as a student in college, but I was still a student, not a professional artist) on where/how to paint.  

I guess I bring up these questions to ask if she really is an artist?  Or is she really just a little girl painting?  Pretty much every working artist has a reason behind their work.  A point they want to emulate, often profound, deep, emotional.  A very young girl is naive, innocent, pure, uncomplicated.  I think seeking deeper meaning into Marla Olmstead's works will have to come solely from the viewer.  It is happy circumstance or her mood that day that made things appear the way they do in the final piece.  Perhaps as she ages and continue to paint we can find more meaning and intention behind her work.

I really enjoyed watching this documentary and encourage others to watch it. It is very interesting.  Plus, Marla is such a cute little girl!  But, please tell me what you think about all this?
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