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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Child art prodigy wows New York
Marla Olmstead
Marla Olmstead seems oblivious to the attention
A four-year-old girl is wowing the New York art world with paintings that are drawing comparisons with Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky.

Marla Olmstead, from Binghamton, in New York state, has been painting since just before she was two years old.

Using brushes, spatulas, her fingers and even ketchup bottles, she is creating canvases of six by six foot.

The prodigy has already sold about 25 paintings, raising $40,000 (22,000) and a new exhibition opens on Friday.

Father Mark, speaking to BBC News Online while on a trip to New York city to do television interviews, said: "She does her own thing, she uses a lot of paint but is oblivious to the whole thing."

Marla Olmstead's Aquarium
The paintings are given simple titles and signed 'Marla', sometimes with the 'r' reversed
He said she had first started painting shortly before her second birthday as her father tried to stop her distracting him from his own amateur art.

"It was me attempting to paint. I painted my wife's portrait and I gave her the paint as a diversionary tactic.

"She went at it with all colours. Initially she directed me, and then it evolved to the canvas.

"I'm her assistant, I hand her the brushes. She doesn't appreciate that most artists have to wait longer to have an assistant," he joked.

Mr Olmstead said his daughter's work was evolving as she developed into a mature artist.

Marla Olmstead's Ode to Pollock I
Marla's family see elements of Jackson Pollock in her work
"She is evolving with technique and her handling of the brush. She seems a little more cautious."

Gallery owner Anthony Brunelli said of 10 pieces about to go on show, six were already sold, and that the remaining four could fetch between $8-10,000.

He said Marla's work was unbelievable for a child.

"Her paintings are very large, anywhere from inches square, to 48 by 64 inches.

"They have vibrant colours, they're very expressive in the way the paint is applied, brush, spatula, her fingers. Some are Kandinskyesque and some are Pollockesque.

Mr Brunelli's assessment of Marla's prospects as an adult artist are cautious.

"You never can tell. I've seen her progressing over the past year. The four she just did, each one gets better."

Mr Brunelli said he had a list of 20 people, from as far afield as Japan, who wanted to be allowed first pick of any upcoming work.

Despite prompting from her father, a giggling Marla refused to speak about her work to BBC News Online.

College place for piano prodigy
18 Apr 04  |  Norfolk
Indian prodigy aims high
19 Jun 03  |  Science/Nature

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