Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Post a Day #5

I have just been watching My Kid Could Paint That. It is a documentary about a 4 year old girl who is some kind of child prodigy and sells her paintings for thousands of dollars. Questions came up about whether the girl was actually painting the pictures on her own or whether her father was helping her or in fact painting himself. I really wanted to believe that she painted these pictures. But at the movie I mentioned to my wife that there was no proof that she had painted them and shortly after I said that, my suspicions were agreed with by the documentary.

There are a number of ideas brought up by this.

The first is "what is art?". This seems to be a unanswerable question. As the saying goes "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder". If that is the case, who is anyone to say what is art and what is not? Speaking as a literature major, when I read a book, I try to understand what the author is saying and what message they want to bring across. I imagine the same is true for visual art. The artist is portraying something with their painting or sculpture or whatever. There is a message in their art. If this is the case, then what message is a 4 year old girl trying to give us with her painting? Surely she paints purely for the pleasure. What are we to think of art like this? Is it the same as a picture painted by an elephant or a chimpanzee? They are not delivering a message, the purely putting paint to canvas. Does art need a message? Now, if we accept that a 4 year old can make art but then add that she is painting under the direction of her father, is it still art? Where is that line drawn? To me, it's a truly interesting question.

The second idea I considered as I watched this film was about the child prodigy. How would you know? To discover if your child was a prodigy, would you have to be a pushy parent? Could a child achieve their full potential without your guidance? As a father myself, I wonder this a lot. I could never be the kind of parent to push things onto my son, but sometimes I worry that I am letting whatever talent he has fade away. People often say he is great at sports. Should I pushing him more in that direction? He also seems to have some kind of art ability and maybe I should be helping this somehow? In these two regards he is very different from me. I'm not even sure how to proceed. I suppose it is all about the fine line between encouraging and pushing. I hope I will never be the pushy parent.

If you want to see some of the art, the girl's website is Marla Olmstead. She is now 9.

11 comments:

Christopher said...

part of my also says, people will pay money to say, "oh remember that girl in the late 2000's who was painting, well here is one of her paintings" and therefore pay a ton of money for it. I agree, art is completely subjective. I would pay $300, $400, $500 for a photograph from a friend here in Tokyo only because I understand what it represents and the work it took to get it. But i'd probably pay nothing for a Picasso because, eh, its just not my thing.

I'm going to start heli-painting with my RC helicopter and try to sell each work for $10k each. I'll let you know how far I get.

aaronrussin said...

great post, San!

I think there's something to be said for people who are interested in the 'intention' of art. i'd say this is the 'right' way to look at art (which of course is not subjective...) something merely 'aesthetically' pleasing is like something being merely 'tastey'. like food, i LOVE the taste of Yams, but it's even more important or interesting to KNOW where those Yams came (ie. GMO, Local, etc.).

this, i think is what's mostly wrong with the current state of music/film/media etc. we're far too interested in how 'pleasing' things are, and not at all interested in their historical or social contexts.

also, you should cane your son if he doesn't love sports. you'll regret it in future ;)

i guess i just think it's important

Cergie said...

Dear San, I have much to say / art and so much diffulties to say that in English as you can imagine.
However, I can say that a 4 years old child is often more artiste than the same at 12 ou 40 years old.
I forgot the last time I came, to tell you that I finally saw in French Guiana the movy with the birds having big eyes. So funny...

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Cergie said...

This post is from last year... Nothing new here instead a green background maybe because of summer in the other side of the world ?
SN, I read what you said on Cergipontin, I can understand you will be in Europe during the bad season and that is a very good idea indeed.
I hope you will tell me more soon and I will be happy to know you and your familly et je serai heureuse de vous recevoir chez nous à Cergy dans notre maison, et peut-être à Paris si notre appartement est prêt et cela aussi longtemps que vous le souhaiterez....

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