Jessica Tang
Artist in Residence

Yale School of Art and Yale University Art Gallery

Jessica Tang pictured in the Torre Bonomo with a camera obscura.

Jessica Tang was awarded our open call opportunity in partnership with Yale School of Art and Yale University Art Gallery. As well as a research and development residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios, Tang benefits from a series of mentoring sessions with Margaret Ewing, Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Yale University Art Gallery. She lived and worked from the Torre Bonomo throughout the 2023 Fall Session. 

In the mornings, the sunlight streams into the top floor of this tower through the three long, horizontal, rectangular windows to the east. Usually, I drink my coffee and wait for the sunlight to shine through the window that faces mostly south. I watch the area illuminated by the sunbeam do its slow dance from the frame, to the wall, and to the floor, gradually changing in shape and size. Eventually I hear the bells telling me it is noon.

I have been making cyanotypes from the sunbeams that enter through the tower’s windows. It feels like a lot of waiting, the process takes time: a series of wetting and drying and wetting and drying and wetting and drying. Since I got here, I have been thinking about the phrase “light from all sides.” I googled the phrase and read tutorials for 3D modeling software that describe how to use ambient light for a scene: “It is a non-directional light and does not have a source.”

An example of Jessica Tang’s cyanotype research.

The cyanotypes are bleached then toned with tea into a muddy brownish-redish-greyish-warm-black. To me, they feel like turning light into shadow.

In my bedroom, I constructed a rudimentary camera obscura, words which can be translated to “dark chamber.” A small aperture in the darkened room projects the exterior onto the opposite wall (which is inverted and reversed). Upon entering, the room feels quite dark and the projection faint. The facades, windows, and roofs of buildings slowly emerge from the texture of the wall and the area in the lower left hand side looks bluer and bluer, just like the sky. Sometimes voices carry up from the Via del Municipio and the shadow of a bird flying overhead may flutter through.

I made rubbings in the tower and around Spoleto on tracing paper and made cyanotypes with them too. Some people say they look like water. During a very heavy thunderstorm, the rain seeped through the closed windows on the top floor and as I rushed to dry the puddles, I noticed the water stains on the walls below the windows. I wonder how long they have been there.

Jessica Tang’s rubbings and drawings on display at her Open Studio event.

Tang’s practice seeks to examine the tension between observation and experience via material experiments that arise from inquiries into the nature of the essential tenets of photography: light and time. Through repeated site visits or extended encounters, Tang’s process enacts an insistence to not turn away, but rather, toward. To turn toward, is to become attuned to the reality and urgent precarity of the present and to conjure a kind of ordinary alchemy in which the empirical is made poetic.

Jessica Tang (b. 1992) received a BA in Art History and Visual Art from Columbia University and an MFA from the Yale School of Art. Tang was recently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) in 2022

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