Internet celebrity Molly Soda has a global online following, with her glittery, early-2000s, MySpace-inspired GIFs plastered across old and new media platforms alike, including Vice, Forbes and Rolling Stone. She’s got some 30,000 followers on Tumblr, has been named one of the most important artists to watch in 2013, and famously sold one of her tween confessions-style of net art for $1,300. Originally from Bloomington, Indiana, Molly Soda has made her home in the tiny Detroit enclave of Hamtramck.
Metro Times: How did you become Molly Soda?
Molly Soda: Like a lot of people in my age group and younger, I grew up on the Internet, so it was kind of a natural progression. I started calling myself Molly Soda on the Internet since I started my Tumblr, which was in 2009. I was in school at NYU back then, and I kind of thought it would be just a joke in a way, you know.
MT: So how has your character evolved over time?
Soda: I think my Internet persona and my real life persona is pretty, like, streamlined. I think I’m a lot more honest [online] than I was at first. Originally, when I would answer questions on Tumblr or whatever, I would just lie or be catty. … Then the more people started paying attention to me on the Internet, the more I felt like I owed it to them to try to be 100 percent sincere.
MT: You made headlines in October last year for selling a piece of digital art for $1,300. Tell us about that.
Soda: It was an 8-hour video of me reading all of my Tumblr inbox questions, basically everything that anyone had sent me in the last year and a half, not replying to them, in my room back in Chicago, like a month before I moved to Detroit. It was an endurance piece. I sold it to a woman at the Phillips Auction House in New York for a fundraiser for rhizome.org, a site that specializes in digital art that’s affiliated with the New Museum in New York.
MT: So how do you pay the bills?
Soda: I do a lot of freelance. And I sell my work too, but that’s not all the time. I mean people are still learning to get hip to buying pieces of digital art. That’s not like something that all art collectors are doing yet. I also work for newhive.com that’s based in San Francisco. You could use it to make a portfolio website, but most people use it to make a fun Web collage.
MT: So why move to Detroit? Why not New York or San Francisco, where you’ve had some success?
Soda: I came to Detroit in September last year to visit some friends and meet people. At the time I needed to be in New York for work every two weeks, so I was coming here, going to New York and all my stuff was still in Chicago. At first I was like, “Well, maybe I’ll just move back to New York.” I mean, I’ve already lived there before, but I just got overwhelmed by the fact that people there agree to live below a standard quality of life. I thought, “If I am going to live in New York, I want to live comfortably.” Also, I don’t have to actually be anywhere physically because of the Internet.
MT: What do you want to accomplish in Detroit?
Soda: I’m actually trying to open a gallery here. There are very few cities that even have galleries that focus on digital art. My gallery here would have lots of screens and projections, but I would also be down to have physical art, like, exist with other less physical pieces. I just really get bored going to a show and only seeing … paintings.
See Molly Soda's art at mollysoda.tumblr.com.