Marla Olmstead – artist with a backlog


Marla Olmstead, my favorite four-year-old abstract impressionist, has a backlog of 60 requests for her paintings. At her current prices, that is well over a million dollars in potential business. 

She has been painting for about three years and has turned out less than twenty paintings, so she is going to be very busy for some time. Marla paints for about an hour, three mornings a week, and most of her paintings are taller than she is.

She has been featured in Time magazine, Art & Antiques Magazine, the NY Times, In Touch Magazine, in addition to hundreds of other newspapers and magazines.

She has also been featured on The Today Show with Matt Lower and Katie Couric , CBS Sunday morning with Bill Geist , Inside Edition, NPR weekend edition, as well as 60 Minutes Weekday Edition.

Gaby Wood, of the Observer (UK), visited Marla and interviewed Anthony Brunelli, the artist and gallery owner who discovered Marla and hosted her first exibition in August, 2004.

Anthony says, "We’ve had calls from all over the world. We have a waiting list of 60 people who want to buy her work. Do you know,’ he asks, as a hint of tension creeps into his voice, ‘how long it’s going to take her to do 60 paintings?’

Gaby captured another interesting tidbit from Marla’s mother and father:

"It’s hard to watch her paint,’ Laura Olmstead tells me, cringing slightly, ‘because we feel in our hearts that some of her best work has been painted over.’

Mark laughs in agreement. ‘She’ll paint something we think is gorgeous, and then she’ll just paint over it. And we’ll go, "Grrhhh!"’

I think they are doing a creditable job of shielding Marla from exploitation. I’ve exchanged emails with Laura Olmstead, and she is the complete antithesis of a showbiz mom. Marla is not only talented, she chose great parents.

Read the rest of Gaby’s article and check out Marla’s new paintings.

You can see why this diminutive artist has inspired other mothers to encourage their children’s talents. I am sure there are other young artists out there with similar talents. We seem to live in interesting times…

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0 Responses to Marla Olmstead – artist with a backlog

  1. E.miles says:

    It is really no suprise that this little girl has the talent to do this type of work because the area (binghamton) has been a breeding ground for creativity for decades. there has been several well known artist and writers that have originated from that area. Rod Serling,Mark Twain and Johnny Hart just to name a few.

  2. Wow! Is it something in the water?

  3. Joseph says:

    Let me start off by saying this: I know Mark Olmstead, Marla’s father.
    Mark always was, and is, a glory hound. He was an athlete in High School, but never a star. He failed to progress because he lacked the ability.
    He was a mediocre student at best.
    His favorite line when he was in school and shortly thereafter was “don’t you know who I am? I’m Mark Olmstead, number 10, quarterback for Binghamton High!” Now it would seem his calling card is “Marla’s DAD.”
    Nobody in this area has ever believed the hype.
    Let me say as a person that knows Mark and knows him well I don’t believe that his daughter is painting the final product that they are selling.
    I do believe that she paints a portion of them and that Mark finishes them. If you watch the film taken by the hidden camera you can plainly see that she sloshes around with the brush, covers over things and randomly places shapes and other globs of paint on the canvas. Not nearly the polished, united presentation you see in the gallery.
    I hope that she is a prodigy, but I believe that she is a normal four year old with opportunistic parents.
    I know Mark, and this has living vicariously and sucking up the attention written all over it.

  4. Thanks for the report, Joseph. Most interesting!

    Is there anyone else out there who knows the Olmstead family?

    I would be very interested to read a blogger’s follow-up to last night’s 60 Minutes show on Marla. CBS has so lost their credibility, that I would believe a total stranger before I would believe the crew at CBS.

    If they reported snow, I would have to go outside and see for myself.

  5. JB says:

    Unfortunately, I’m quite sure that Marla is not doing the complete paintings. As a professional artist, and art collector, and having spent a great deal of time studying other artists, I can tell you that to a trained eye, there is a huge gap between what we saw Marla doing on camera, and the finished product. Any art expert worth their salt will tell you they are not done by the same hand.

    On a side note, I find it unfortunate that many well established and museum exhibited artists have trouble paying the rent, while collectors are being exploited like this for $20,000 a piece. But they always have said, a fool and his money are soon parted. I just hope she isn’t traumatized by this.

  6. Emeka says:

    Funny enough I had seen the works of Akiane a prodigy artist aged 10 (go see at a local gallery the day before the 60 minutes piece. I was really amazed by Akiane’s works as well as her poetry. Marla’s parents are hurting true geniuses like Akiane – stop it!!!

  7. W. Kilmer says:

    I didn’t see the 60 minutes piece, but I have viewed other TV shows and read much of the press. I’ve known Laura Olmstead since 1987. I don’t know Mark at all. I do know Laura more than well enough to know that she would never, ever allow a lie involving her name to be perpetuated. Especially one that would have even the slightest modicum of impact on her family. She has always disliked public attention and is terribly wary of exposing her children to it. She is too nice, too honest, too genuine, and has too much integrity to allow a fraud as is proposed by some. I would never speak for her, but I know these things to be true. You may argue human nature all you want, but there are people on this earth not swayed by glory, money, or fame. Some people are motivated by truth and beauty. Laura is one of them.

  8. Neil says:

    I am not completely satisfied with young Marla being referred to as a ” child prodigy “. After watching the 60 minutes piece I have serious doubts about the validity of those paintings. My guess is that her father is finishing the product off and more than likely painting over areas where he feels necessary to do so. It’s unfortunate that adults take so much advantage of their young ones, for sake of livng vicariously through them in order to make up for what they never had. The real victim in all of this aren’t the people who part with their money for her works of art but young Marla who is being forced into the spotlight at such a young impressionable age. It’s strange that a family who doesn’t like publicity has garnished so much of it thus far. It’s a lot easier to remain anonymous than it is to have the publicity the family already has. Something tells me they love the publicity and the monies from these forged paintings. In college you can get kicked out for things like that..