Studio Visit : John Transue


By Elyse Derosia

Studio location: John’s house in West Philadelphia


I first met John through a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) event that I organized at Bodega, and then again when he designed PplSft Connect for Cocktails II, another event held at Bodega. I was interested in visiting John’s “studio” because he has found a way to have a very prolific artistic practice that does not depend on traditional resources like a large studio, expensive materials, or gallery representation.


I know that you went to University of Delaware for Sculpture. Could you tell me how and why you shifted from making physical objects to producing digital work?


For me, it was an obvious and necessary decision. After moving away from school, losing those tools (the wood shop, the kilns, the metal shop) and the space to make work, I wasn’t sure about how to continue an art practice. I remember tossing all of my sculptural work in the trash before I left. I had no place to store those objects. I was left with photographs of work that I made. I had them all stored in iPhoto or something.


I remember trying to make temporary sculptural work in public spaces. I’d take pictures and bring them back to my computer. That was okay for a while. Eventually I turned to painting, hoping that I could still make work, but in a small space. I was applying for grants and residencies and they all wanted images of my work. I became obsessed with the image, the jpeg, the picture of the work. I began to photograph these paintings in my bedroom, but they weren’t coming out well. They were missing that all-important studio or gallery environment. I began to Photoshop them and that is when everything changed.


Around the same time, I registered my first domain: I wasn’t getting any shows, grants or anything really. My .net was my show. My .net became my practice. I was painting in Photoshop and publishing straight to web. I was no longer waiting for oil paint to dry or paying for art materials. I had my computer, internet access and that was all I needed. I wasn’t sure if anyone was seeing the work I was putting up, so I started to get into social networking, Facebooking, and Rhizome. I became interested in found materials via surfing/browsing and finding the latest in warez via peer2peer networks.


Ultimately I realized that most people will not see your work in a gallery context, but rather as a photograph on a website or in a magazine. I became more interested in making a .jpg or a .mov than I was in making a sculpture, taking a photograph, transferring it to my computer, adjusting the colors, and uploading it.


So now that your work, which so consciously exists in the non-physical realm, has gained a significant amount of online attention, gallerists and curators inevitably want to place it in a gallery setting. What are your thoughts on this?


Initially, this was my goal. I thought I’d stir up some presence on the internet so that I might get some shows in a physical gallery setting. I wanted so badly to be a showing artist. I thought I’d leave the internet based world when I finally got that chance. Now it seems sort of backwards to have a show in a gallery setting. I could have seemingly infinite people see work via the World Wide Web. The gallery setting is more personal and local. Things don’t usually “go viral” in the gallery setting, though I suppose it depends which gallery you’re talking about. I’m still very interested in this physical space, but I think my work should adjust or change accordingly. I’m not setting up a computer to view work in a gallery. However, I might print or project something I made on the computer. I might make a sculpture or an installation-based work. I’d also like to point out that gallerists, curators and other internet-based artists have been adapting with group shows like BYOB, QR code and the Free Art and Technology Lab Speed Shows.

I love how these exhibitions are open source and going viral in their own way. They are traveling all over the globe and being adapted by different artists, spaces, and communities. Oftentimes, these shows seem to be largely curated around the way the work came to be (the form), rather than the content of the individual works. Do you ever feel pigeonholed as an artist because you create digital work? Can you speak to the reception of digital art as merely form?


I think form has a lot to do with how curators choose work. Internet and digital art is a form just like pottery, poetry, painting, and music are art forms. I think most curators don’t really get it though.  It also seems that many internet based artists have similar content due to the nature of the form; see greek new media shit for an instance of that.  I don’t feel pigeonholed because I’m not trying to break out into other audiences.  I’m not actively pursuing a contemporary fine art career at this point. It’s all purely experimental. I’m mostly making work because I enjoy exploring media and sharing that exploration with my peers via the World Wide Web. Shows happen because of this sharing and collaboration. It’s also a way to meet your Facebook friends in real life.


What are some current, ongoing, and future projects?


At the moment I’m designing a web site for a gallery in Brooklyn and some other miscellaneous freelance web projects. I just finished up PplSft Connect and I’ve some ongoing personal investigations in 3D software. I’m continually updating New Age Addiction to automatically spew out spam related to technology addictions. I’m working full time for Coca-Cola too. I’m not sure what the future holds but there always seems to be a project or two around the corner.



John Transue is a Philadelphia based artist who makes work in a wide range of media, including the internet, digital painting, sound, video, 3D, and sculpture. His work explores online culture, multidistraction and new media technology. He was born 1984 in Philadelphia and received a B.F.A. from University of Delaware in 2008. You can find his work on the following web sites: Paint FX, Spirit Surfers, New Age Addiction, (DIGITALCRAFTS), Computers Club Drawing Society, Bozeau Ortega Contemporary Arts, PplSft, VVork, and




Elyse Derosia is an artist and a co-director of Bodega, an exhibition and performance space in Philadelphia founded in 2010.