Meet Molly Ostertag: Cartoonist, SVA Grad, 2014 Commencement Speaker

May 30, 2014

True to SVA tradition, when the College held its 2014 commencement exercises recently, the program featured two speeches by degree candidates—one an undergraduate student, the other a graduate student. After the ceremony, SVA Close Up got in touch with this year’s speakers for a bit more on their backgrounds, their studies and their post-graduation plans. First up is Molly Ostertag (BFA 2014 Illustration).

molly200Ostertag grew up in “the forests of upstate New York” and found out about SVA through some creative-minded friends she’d made at summer camp. She transferred to SVA after a year at a liberal arts college, to dedicate herself to her comics and illustration practice, and plans to continue in the field as a professional now

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that she’s graduated. (“I’m so grateful to my family for making it possible for me to go to SVA,” she says.) She distinguished herself academically from the start, making the Dean’s List every semester and receiving a number of College awards and scholarships, including the SVA Alumni Society’s Da Vinci Award. The award money is being used to self-publish her senior portfolio project, a 24-page comic book called Bacchanalia, which imagines the son of the Greco-Roman god Bacchus (god of wine and revelry) navigating modern-day college life and, she says, “bad relationships and the temptation to lose yourself in a bad place.”

Bacchanalia is not the only publication Ostertag has in the works. In 2012, she and friend Brennan Lee Mulligan (BFA 2009 Film and Video), a writer and actor, launched Strong Female Protagonist, their web-comic about a masked-crimefighter-turned-college student, named Alison Green, who takes on the world’s injustices. Updated twice weekly, the series has amassed a serious fan base: The duo’s current Kickstarter, to fund a 200-plus-page volume of the story so far, is (as of press time) on the verge of quintupling its original funding goal, with more than 1,100 backer contributions.

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Not coincidentally, Ostertag’s commencement speech (which you can watch in full here) celebrated the new opportunities for creativity and self-expression that have come out of the technological advancements of recent years. “We grew up with the Internet and home computers,” she said. “Over our lifetimes, we watched that technology integrate itself into every aspect of our lives. . . . Traditional, established gatekeepers are being undermined by the fact that technology lets nearly anyone make art. You can find an audience for your work in a way that’s never been possible before.”

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Visit Ostertag’s website for more of her personal and professional work.

Images: courtesy Molly Ostertag.

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