October 5, 2004

So You Want Your Kid To Be An Artist

Marla Olmstead is a 4-year old from Binghamton, NY whose paintings are selling [or, at least, they're for sale] for $6,000 in a gallery in town. Her painting career began a couple of years ago, when her father gave her a brush to keep her occupied.

While the New York Times would never deign to report directly about such a local news filler-type story, they're not above reporting around it. Their take: showing paintings from pre-school students at Riverside Church's Weekday School to the director of the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

The article has interesting discussion about what's behind kids' approach to abstract painting, but the real money quote is from little Isabelle Harris, who proudly announces, "'I made a Jackson Pollock.'

"A Jackson Pollock?

"'It's the one that was at the Metropolitan Museum,' she said."

Impressed? Turns out the Pollock in question is featured in Olivia, that book about that pig, by Ian Falconer. It may be precocious enough for the Times, but I'm sure kindergarten interviewers are trained to weed out kids who only know Pollock. Study up, Isabelle.

Little Jackson Pollocks, Exploring in Oil Paint [NYT]
Childrens Museum of Manhattan
Buy Olivia, by Ian Falconer, at Amazon.

[correction: the Times IS shameless enough to do a story like this.]


The most alarming part of this story is that as recently as four years ago, parents were naming their children Marla.

The Times has a tendency to find extremely eloquent kids to quote. I remember a story about the change over from the Walk/Don't Walk signs that quoted a 6 year old kid who referenced the fact that the "man and the hand" were the standard in all of the European cities he's seen.

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