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Marla Olmstead...4 year old artist.
October 15, 2004 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Ever find yourself at a museum and think "my son/daughter/niece/dog could do that"? Four year old painter Marla Olmstead really can. via
posted by Ufez Jones (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I have a feeling she didn't name them, though.
posted by swift at 11:58 AM on October 15, 2004


The NY Times had an article on her a couple weeks ago. I gotta say I like Asian Sun a lot.
posted by delapohl at 12:04 PM on October 15, 2004


I loathe self important art critics and aficionados who talk about the meaning and the aesthetics and the ethics.... I agree with swift she didn't name those, more importantly what 4 year old given a set palate of colors and a bunch of brushes couldn't come up with similar works of art.
posted by sourbrew at 12:10 PM on October 15, 2004


Aesthetics, to my understanding, are standards that individuals or communities use to judge what is beautiful. If people find her work beautiful, then it doesn't matter if she was a four year old or a cat with a paint brush tied to her tail.

As for "meaning," an average viewer doesn't necessarily know anything about the thought that went behind a painting. Thus, they are able to draw their own conclusions about the meaning of the painting. This is why Rorschach tests are a thing we use. An individual's reaction to a work of art often says more about the person than the art.

Placing a four year old's work in a museum or selling it, though, does have a meaning beyond the individual viewer's reaction - obviously, it suggests that all similar abstract modern art could have been done by a preschooler. Sort of an "Emperor's New Clothes" situation. This is not necessarily a new suggestion, but this really drives the point home nicely.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2004


But you gotta admit, they are (mostly) pretty damned cool...
posted by kaibutsu at 12:37 PM on October 15, 2004


Joey Michaels: Placing a four year old's work in a museum or selling it, though, does have a meaning beyond the individual viewer's reaction - obviously, it suggests that all similar abstract modern art could have been done by a preschooler. Sort of an "Emperor's New Clothes" situation. This is not necessarily a new suggestion, but this really drives the point home nicely.

Personally, I think a lot of these claims come from not understanding that art can be more than just pretty pictures of naked ladies, boating parties, or haystacks. For example, although Jackson Pollock is a whipping boy for attacks on modern art there is more going on in his paintings than just random splatters of paint. Quite a bit of modern art just takes the implicit rules of design and color that were explored by Degas, Seurat, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec and put them on to canvass without the recognizable landscape behind it. It is, IMHO, pretty stupid to raise Starry Night to icon status, and then bash Pollock for engaging in the same expeirments with color and texture.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2004


What about turtles? You forgot turtles ... http://turtlekiss.com/
posted by devbrain at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2004


... if I were as smart as a turtle I'd have known how to link that, I guess.
posted by devbrain at 12:45 PM on October 15, 2004


does anyone remember alexandra nechita? she created a bit of pop culture media buzz nearly ten years ago...
posted by ifjuly at 12:57 PM on October 15, 2004


From http://turtlekiss.com/:
Koopa is attempting to set a world record in 2004!  Will he become the first turtle in the world to have his original artwork hang in all 50 states?
Really? There's competition for that title?
posted by mkultra at 1:14 PM on October 15, 2004


Koopa...as in King Koopa of the Mario Brothers series? Oy.
posted by etoile at 1:34 PM on October 15, 2004


more importantly what 4 year old given a set palate of colors and a bunch of brushes couldn't come up with similar works of art.

that's a ridiculous statement. i'm quite positive i couldn't have done that when i was 4, nor could anyone in my class.

marvelous stuff. haven't you people ever heard of prodigies?

sales are irrelevant b/c they have little to do with quality. however, i think these are quite good.

and, lest you didn't know, i am the ultimate arbiter of good art. ;p
posted by mrgrimm at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2004


I don't believe a 4-year old can create art. There has to be an intent to communicate in the creation of the work. Call me an elitist. If people are responding to this as art, it's due to poor standards on their part. A lot of times we call pretty pictures, or pictures that are interesting to look at, art, but technically I don't think that's true if that's all there is to them, and in the case of a 4-year old I assume that would have to be the case, wouldn't it?

Sounds to me like she's got an intuitive understanding of color and texture, and she knows what looks good. That's very nice. She can make a lot of money doing that, and make al lot of people happy. No negative judgment made on this. But why do we have to call it art? It's decoration.
posted by Hildago at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2004


hildago, art is not art because an artist creates it -- art is art because one person deems it so,


theres no need for intent, only the means for discovery

its vicarious pretention that sets art on a high mantle, where only the strenously trained and hopelessly tortured, the academic and the genius can reach -- art is for all of us, every one, it should be as secondary as blinking, it is for every reaction, for smiles, for frowns, for recoil, for embrace, for nothing, for all -- its for the everchanging eternal YOU.

calling it decoration is just another way of settting up an imaginary pedestal... where real art mingles with certainly unique and purely artistic understanding.

bird shit is art if ONE person digs the way its splatter breaks up the white space in relation to the 3 year old gum spot on the sidewalk square in busytown usa.

fuck ayn rand. seriously.
posted by Satapher at 3:42 PM on October 15, 2004


jazz isnt music its just noise. kerouac wasnt writing he was just typing. pollack, man ANYONE can make those paintings.

PLEASE DO.
posted by Satapher at 3:45 PM on October 15, 2004


Absurd.

Also, a 4-year old must have designed the site given the sheer number of broken links.

/snark

Hildago is correct, despite Satapher's claims to the contrary.

A rainbow is beautiful. Any number of bystanders may find it pleasing and even meaningful.

But a rainbow is not art. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon, in the same way that mildew growing on the bathroom tile is.

Just because something is pleasing does not make it "art". By that same token, an observer's opinion is not what makes something "art".

Now, whether this creation by a child qualifies as "art" or not may be up to debate, but it has to be couched in the proper terms.

Put another way, just because her work is pleasing to (some) eyes, does not automatically make it "art".

Should her interest be encouraged? Absolutely! Should it be held up as a new paradigm in understanding modern art? Doubtful.

In my opinion, her early interest and (supposed) ability can at best imply that she may one day BECOME an artist.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:41 PM on October 15, 2004


If people are responding to this as art, it's due to poor standards on their part.

IMO, the rise of this belief at the start of the 20th century was where the fine art world lost any relevance to most of humanity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm an overeducated person who works in the arts. I would rather stare at a Piet Mondrian painting for three hours imagining the thought and theory being the painting than look at a velvet painting of Elvis. None-the-less, my friends who are not as art-educated as I am - and this includes some very well educated people - would look at the same painting and wonder why the side of the Partridge Family's bus was in a museum.

Similarly, I recognize that there is more to Pollock than splattered lines, but I also recognize that somebody who has no background in art has every right to look at it and say "did he vomit on the canvas?"

Art doesn't need to appeal to everyone to be art. Art that appeals to nearly everyone is still art. For art to be a vital part of society, some art needs to be accessible to people who have time to look at it, but no time to look into the meaning behind it.

As far as intent goes, the fact that her paintings are on display as art may very well be the intent of the person who named the paintings and put them on display. I would maybe compare this to Duchamp's ready mades. There was no intent on the part of the designed of the toilet to make art, but when Duchamp stuck it in a gallery and named it "Fountain," BAMF, art.

To conclude: It's not the bullet that kills you it's the hole.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2004


I don't believe a 4-year old can create art. There has to be an intent to communicate in the creation of the work.

But a rainbow is not art. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon, in the same way that mildew growing on the bathroom tile is.


OK smart folks, if you didn't know the age of the artist (or species in the case of the turtle) but you felt an emotional connection or whatever then what do you call it? Sounds like the context of the work is as important as the work itself in your views. So whether or not it's art depends on what you know about the background of the artist and circumstances of it's creation and presentation. Am I following your point? Amiartornot?
posted by euphorb at 8:12 PM on October 15, 2004


mefiecho: LIFE IS NON-ART.
posted by Satapher at 9:10 PM on October 15, 2004


Well, I have an almost 2 year old boy who loves to paint...and he's very multimedia, he'll paint paper, canvases, the porch, my car, the dog...he's really not all that picky...he believes art should be shared with as vast an audience as can be found.

I'm willing to bet that we could turn him loose with a pallet of paints, a gallery full of unmarked walls, one large dog, a selection of old...but fast cats...oh, and for texture, a few bowls of oatmeal and some mushed up crayons and the universe could share in the joy that is the art I'm constant cleaning off my walls. Had I but known I was wiping away the voice of a generation...the toddler picasso...I'm so ashamed.
posted by dejah420 at 11:48 PM on October 15, 2004


So whether or not it's art depends on what you know about the background of the artist and circumstances of it's creation and presentation. Am I following your point?

euphorb: to a great extent, yes

Anyone can pick up a trumpet and make some noise. That does not make them a musician.

Anyone can take paint and apply it to a canvas. That does not make them an artist.

Art relies on more than serendipity. In my thoroughly nonauthoritative opinion, art is created with a purpose. Other things that happen accidentally or without direct intent or purpose may be pleasing to the eye, and may prove as "decoration" as was mentioned above, but it is not "art" per se.

If I take a spray can of red paint and leave it in the truck of my car and it accidentally overheats and explodes, the resultant is not "art" no matter how attractive a particular person may find it. Indeed, no matter how many people find it attractive, it is STILL not "art".

Let's couch it in a realm I am much more comfortable: music.

Suppose you happen upon a pasture filled with cattle. The cows are minding their own business, doing what cows do, and the result is a minor cacophony of cowbells. No matter how pleasing you may find that, it is not music, it is merely a pleasing sound.

Now, suppose you meet a composer, who purposefully dictates a sequence and pattern of notes to be played upon cowbells. Though it too may be a minor cacophony, it is indeed music.

I think that is as close of a comparison as I can make given my knowledge set.

Am I comparing the little girl to a cow? Not really, but she is indeed doing what little girls do with art supplies: smearing them around in patterns.

Maybe a compromise could be reached thusly: this is no more or less art than the work of any other 4 year old smearing paint. I think that is sufficient.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:11 PM on October 17, 2004


leave it in the truck of my car

truck=trunk
posted by Ynoxas at 7:12 PM on October 17, 2004


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