Sunday, February 1

Most Wanted

I watched the film My Kid Could Paint That this morning and could not help but feel compelled by the discussion of what makes something genius and what makes something original. I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's articles for the New Yorker the past year (I believe they culminated in Outliers) and have been thinking a lot about what may constitute genius, or even talent. Although the perception of talent seems to be that it is innate and apparent in the object itself, this documentary looks more to the fact that success comes from the context that the work exists in and the communication of that context. The gallerist, journalists and parents have much more to do with the sales of a four-year-olds artwork that the painting itself (Michael Kimmelman of the Times does a great job talking about that in this film.)
I thought the film would mostly look at art and the accepted perceptions of what defines it (which is what a four-year-old selling painters forces us to look at), but it is also looks at the story itself. , as it moved away from narrative and towards documenting the movements of the artist's gestures, now directly told the story of the artist and the personalities became part of the understanding of the work. The mythos around the object helped to dictate the understanding of it. Jackson Pollock became the James Dean of modern art. Most of the adults in this story seem to be projecting onto Marla and her paintings what they want from the worl of art. But as the filmmaker looks at all the forces surrounding the myth of the child painter Marla, he also looks at how the construction of his film adds to that myth by how it presents its subjects.
I couldn't help coming back to the mother's desire to protect her children from what she intrinsically felt were the pitfalls in the life of the child prodigy. The families desperation to have Marla's work validated as autonomous and original, without any outside coaching, becomes fully apparent when she pleads with the filmmaker to believe her, that it is of the utmost importance that he does. It made me realize that we forget the human once they have been put into the machine of a market.

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