Dude Finds Molly Soda’s Old Art in Trash, Curates “Anonymous” Artist’s Exhibit in Chicago

February 3, 2014 | Marina Galperina

There’s a story in the Chicago Reader this morning: “The anti-Vivian Maier.” Apparently, some dude in Chicago found a plastic bag of photos and slides on top of a dumpster, gave it to some other dude — Paul-David Young, “an occasional curator who works in the imaging department at the Art Institute” was “fascinated” with them. By a coincidence, he was asked to curate a show at the Crowded House gallery. There’s even a reception for “To Perform, To Conceal” — featuring this “anonymous” artist’s “found photos.”

UPDATE: “I don’t think of these as Molly Soda’s photos,” the curator says to ANIMAL about Molly Soda’s photos. 

We can forgive Mr. Young for not recognizing Molly Soda, a born-digital artist from Chicago who has recently broke through in a major way, being featured in the first digital art auction at Phillips in New York and being part of a collective who recently received a grant from Rhizome to host off-internet pop up art events.

What we can’t forgive is that while Mr. Young was able to “deduce” that the photos had “been taken within the past five years, possibly in New York,” and “made a few unsuccessful attempts to find the photographer” neither him nor the journalist ran — or admits to have ran — a simple reverse image search which leads directly to Molly Soda’s old Flickr page (then Amalia Soto).

Despite both Mr. Young and the Chicago Reader being ever-so-giddy to compare this to the massive stash of Vivian Maier’s unpublished photography that was recently discovered in a storage locker, this not a treasure trove of an anonymous artist. This is an aspiring curator digging through a bunch of old art school work of a known person, not only crediting himself with a discovery, but also offering some faux-benevolent, patronizing criticism.

Some are trash, some have merit. There are moments of brilliance and bravery and moments of youthful narcissism. They’re very earnest and sincere… This is like the opposite of Vivian Maier. They’re very current. They’re not shots of Chicago the way it used to be… I want them to be taken seriously, even if they are unremarkable.

ANIMAL is awaiting commentary from the artist and the curator. Since then, Young Paul-David Young has locked his Twitter account. Meanwhile, Molly Soda is up.

She tells ANIMAL:

I have no idea who this guy is. I think it’s wild he found my photos. I threw them all out when I was moving out of my house in Chicago to Detroit. They were all like copies that I didn’t want or bad prints. I had a fantasy about someone finding them, but nothing like this! I’m very amused by all of it. Sort of flattered. Sort of baffled that they couldn’t figure out it was me considering most of those photos are already on the Internet. Just Google my real name ‘Amalia Soto.’ I bet that this has all come to light, he’s probably a little freaked out… Also it’s funny ’cause I always talk about ownership and letting go of ownership once you put something on the Internet, so it’s interesting that this is happening IRL too.
The Chicago Reader since did the right thing by following up on this story by also talking to Molly Soda and linking to it on their original post.


(Top image: Amalia Soto, “Courtesy Paul-David Young” in Chicago Reader)