A Legacy

April 17, 2017

I have not posted a blog in a long time. There are matters I want to write about, but nothing I can share. I have not been entirely okay. The irony is that none of my current troubles have to do with Trump, or my mother, which is what people assume to be the case. Both, of course, are black clouds and a constant source of anxiety and sadness. Trump is even worse than the monster my imagination could have conjured, and my mother is ever so slowly losing her identity in small degrees. Still they can’t be blamed for what is wrong with me. I do not want to add to the noise, the opinions, the articles, photographs, sound bites, images, news regarding Trump.There is nothing to say about my mother. 

So, this. 

One of my favorite episodes of Little House on the Prairie (don’t judge). . .the one with Michael Landon as Charles (Pa), was when he was feeling, after the sudden death of a friend, like his life was passing by and he would not leave a legacy. He worried that when he died he would be forgotten entirely. 

A present-day (1982) couple buy an antique, folding-leaf table with a large “I” branded on it at an auction and are curious to learn about its origins. The story focuses on Charles’ efforts to patent the table and have it mass produced. However, a ruthless businessman is successful in a bid to steal the patent and snare an ill-gotten profit, forcing Charles to realize that his family, and not the tables, are his greatest legacy. Back to the auction. The bidding is furious and competitive. This piece of furniture is obviously a treasure. It is sold for a large sum of money unimaginable to Pa. The buyers are thrilled and at the end you see them lovingly loading it on to their truck to bring home.

Does everyone, every creative person worry about their legacy or lack thereof? I would not say it is a worry of mine, but I do feel kind of sad that after decades of making small drawings most will probably disappear to, recycle? Landfill in Johnston, RI? I don’t know. 


I think of Eva Hesse and Francesca Woodman, Christina Ramberg. All artists who died so young, but had such strong voices that they are still exhibited, discussed. Relevant. 

I am a late bloomer. I did some good work when I was young but it took me decades to develop a consistent artistic voice. And it is quiet.


I am going through an especially quiet phase. I have dropped more and more color until there is just the color of pencil lead. There are all the shades of grey, and pencils that come in black and gold and silver.

I started using pencils with gouache and ink, and then more pencil and less gouache and ink, and then, all pencil. Pencils will be here as long as I am here. I feel secure in my love for them. They won’t leave me like me favorite pens have. 

Ink has a darkness, a hardness and permanence to it. The way I use pencil is soft. I could press harder, but I don’t. These drawings are flat and kind of grey, like an overcast sky.


One day I will disappear, unnoticed. Maybe that is not so bad. Maybe it’s okay to come and go and do no harm. And leave behind some good work. 

Snowy Night in New York City. 

January 19, 2017


During a visit to see my mother in Brooklyn, I went out to see art work, which many of you know is a difficult decision.

Snow began to fall in the afternoon.

I went to see the Drawings of James Siena first. There was construction in the tunnels. I had to take a train, and a bus and walk a lot. I was icy cold when I arrived.

I did love the exhibit. I was sad there wasn’t a catalogue.

James Siena

I went to see Michelle Grabner’s cast Afghan blankets. That was a great show too.

Cast Afghan by Michelle Grabner.

I could not warm up.

I wanted a glass of wine, and a small hot food thing. All around were coffee shops,  but I did not want coffee.

My last stop was meant to be the Met Breuer to see the Kerry James Marshall work.

I walked a lot. I took a subway. I took a bus cross town.

I was freezing, and very hungry.

There were bars. The prices for little hot food treats were crazy high. I couldn’t justify it but then I could.

I walked past the Café Carlyle. I wished I could afford it.

I went to the bar downstairs in the Whitney. It looked cozy.

I went to the man seating people and asked for a seat at the bar. He said it would take a little while. It was busy, bustling.

I walked away and began to cry. Of course, when I cry these days it is about more than being cold, hungry.

Suddenly, the Man Who Seats people was at my side. He put an arm around my back. He asked me if I was okay. He took me to the bar and got me a seat. He seemed to have assigned every person at the restaurant to make sure I got water, wine, a small food thing. I looked at the prices. I could afford an endive salad, and a glass of wine. I am embarrassed to say what I paid for this. A lot. The wait staff glanced at me now and then to see that I was not crying anymore. That I was okay. It was genuine. Then they brought me a dessert. It was icy cold but I ate a little because they were so nice to give it to me.
When I finished and had to meet a friend upstairs I thanked the Seating Man, whose name is Robert Banat. He works at Flora, in the Whitney. He is a very very kind man.

Robert Banat

Kerry James Marshall’s paintings were a tour de force.

Kerry James Marshall

I was tired and sad when I got back to Brooklyn, but I was also so grateful.

Life is complicated these days.

Coda: Robert Banat gave me a business card. He photographs famous artists in their studios. I sent him an e mail, thanking him again. I sent him a few images of my work, because he seemed to care about who I was. I did not hear back. I wish I would have.

A New Day

October 14, 2016

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

― L.M. Montgomery.


My life at the moment is about learning to accept daily the mistakes I make, other people make and their after effects.

For even in a brand new unblemished day, you have to live with the consequences of all your previous wrongs. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.

In my artwork I have tried to explore, allow, and appreciate mistakes. My drawings and paintings look so careful, and in a way, perfect. But they are not. I am not Bridget Riley, or Tess Jaray, or Julian Stanczak. I don’t even know how they do what they do.

In my brick drawings I don’t use a ruler. Every single brick is a slightly different size. Most do not line up as they should. No structure could survive if it were built with the bricks I draw. I try as hard with these drawings to ALLOW these errors as I try in my non art life to be perfect. It’s a challenge. A part of me feels a pull to use a ruler, to keep each brick the same as the next. It is the same feeling I had with my slinky series. I had to fight the urge to check the circles with a compass. I have to fight my desire to control, to be ‘perfect’.

I know my art work is stronger with these imperfections. What would be the point of making perfect bricks or perfect circles when artists have already done that, and done it brilliantly?

But navigating life outside my studio, where I have to exist with rules and parameters, with hearts, minds, souls, individuals, I think it would be better if I could control more of myself. I used to think I was more interesting when I let loose, said what I thought, tossed off opinions even if I hadn’t thought them through. I no longer believe this.
These days, I try every day I try not to offend people, to do well at my day job, to be kind to my mother who is barely my mother, to be a good friend, citizen, wife, mother, pet owner, housekeeper. Each day I am not all that successful at any of these things. I hate myself for it. I can’t seem to find a balance between being myself, and being what I think I am supposed to be.

I can forgive the imperfect me. But only in my art.

Your Reputation Preceeds You. 

August 27, 2016

I was known as a fighter. In my teens, my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and even into my 50’s people have seen me as someone who would not shy away from a confrontation. I was the truth teller. I once picked a fight with a robot at an Auto Fair. 

Let me tell you, that person, if she ever was, no longer exists. Truly. I raise the white flag. You can knock me over with a feather. 

I might have a bit of fight left for causes bigger than me. For Black Lives Matter, for equal rights, for my child. But for anything personal? Feel free to just take what you want from me. I am not thinking about revenge, about vindication, about getting back at anyone. I do not wish anyone harm. I don’t imagine in my wildest dreams hurting anyone. I was never the sort to be interested in throwing a punch anyway. I used words to fight. 

Still this reputation follows me. I am begging you, let this image of me go. I was never really that person and I am less that person now. Have at me. I surrender. 

To See or Not to See

August 11, 2016

skinny me

Too see or not to see.

To seek help or

soldier on, chin up, through this deep groove in my life.

That is the question.

I have waffled for months, trying to decide whether or not to go back to my therapist. I adore my therapist, but that isn’t a good reason to see him. When I saw him last October, there was no question. I made that call, sobbed through three appointments, and told him I thought I would be able to manage, to be okay.

The relationship between therapist and patient comes with strict rules, mostly to protect the patient, who is vulnerable. I trust this man, and he trusts me. When I told him at the the end of that third session I felt I could carry on, he trusted me. I’m not so sure now we were right.

I checked on line to see if I qualified for seeking help.

I actually look good on paper.

I sleep.

I take care of my appearance.

I can do my job (well).

My house is reasonably clean.

I don’t cry every day anymore.

All good.

Still, I am not quite myself. Mostly it is a food thing. I seem to have developed a bit of an eating disorder, which is kind of funny. It’s funny because when I was in my 30’s, and considerably chubbier, almost all my friends were gay men. Once, when I was meeting them for dinner, or a frolic, Chris said I looked a bit heavy. I was mortified. From then on I trained them to say, every time we got together, “Jessica, You’re looking a little anorexic.”

Now the word some of my friends use is “gaunt”. I have my own private reason for not eating much and that reason still exists. But, basically I am fine.

Thus the waffle.

If I could just eat the waffle, I’d be set.

 

 

Six Days

June 28, 2016

 

image

I have a six day residency right here in Cranston, RI. I didn’t have to apply for this opportunity. There were no fees. I didn’t have to write a statement about why I need the time and how it would change my career.

I  had only to convince myself that I should not feel guilty even though there is no prestige attached to this residency.  Making the decision was the hardest part, but is done. My shifts have been filled.

I have been rejected this past year for grants and residencies from some of the best. The MacDowell Colony, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the R.I.S.D. Musuem, and the always reliable for rejection, RI State Council on the Arts. I have written statements for applications that have made me cry. It wasn’t enough.

I’ll have to walk my dog. I’ll do the wash and vacuum. I’ll water my flowers and grass. I won’t have anyone fixing me breakfast and dinner, nor will any baskets of lunch be left outside my studio door. I won’t have the built in community of like minded people. But I’ll  wake to day after glorious day of hours to be a full time artist.

It’s been a bruising year for me. But there is this:

Dear Jessica, congratulations. I look forward to seeing what you’ll do when you have six days to do what you love.  Have a wonderful time. 

My residency will begin July 3rd and end at the end of July 8th.

Six days. Congratulations Jess. You’re in.

 

 

 

Good-Ness

June 4, 2016

good – Simple Definition of good

  • : of high quality

  • : of somewhat high but not excellent quality

  • : correct or proper

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary



I have been thinking about what people mean when they say so and so is a GOOD person. It seems to me that a lot of people confuse being good with being polite, non confrontational, and fairly conventional. I think I am GOOD, but a while back I learned that a few people did not. They not only believed that I was not good, but that I had done something that was BAD. Ever since, I have set out to prove my goodness. I think I have been successful to a degree, but it has come at a cost.
I thought that in spite of the fact that I am known to rant, to confront, to engage, most people could easily see that I was good, and that I would sooner harm myself than another other living creature. I was very wrong. I had to face the fact that among my friends I was accepted, but out in the world, beyond my bubble, people found me to be formidable, and even a little scary.
If I use the Merriam Dictionary definition of GOOD, I don’t fit. I suppose I am of high quality, depending on what rubric you use. At least I am smart. At least I have a high i.q.. I think I am:
: of somewhat high but not excellent quality.
I am unsure of whether I am “proper”.
I have to accept the fact that people can’t see inside of me. So, I am more quiet now. I am  more afraid to be myself. I have made myself smaller. None of these traits has made me a better person. I hope they have made it easier to see the GOOD bits of me. 
In an ironic twist, making myself smaller has made it impossible for me to donate blood, which was one of my favorite do good activities. 
My  goal is to figure out a way to be the fighter, the catalyst, the non conformist, but also survive in my world. People who have those traits are my heroes. The late, great Muhammad Ali, John Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, union organizers, protesters, people who refused to name names. I’m not sure I can do both. I have not succeeded so far, for sure. 
I am also trying to understand why I need to prove myself to these people who barely know me. Why is their opinion so important to me?
I am good. I have no proof of this, but I hope my actions speak. 
My dog Alice is good. She is lucky. Even when she is naughty we give her hugs and kisses and tell her she is a good girl. And she is. Anyone can see it.
Alice

What Remains.

April 14, 2016

I noticed my mother’s memory was seriously slipping in October of 2012, but I know there were signs before that. She knows me and my two brothers, and my husband, their wives. She knows our c…

Source: What Remains.

Being Here (Who I am, going)

March 22, 2016

Well, if it is any comfort and I doubt that it is, I am Jessica Rosner failure, without any of the substantial reasons to think so that you have. But maybe neither of us are failures. Really.

here we are going

Charles Walter Smith, blogging diarist.

This is a post about my over-sharing. Sort of. I am happy when people remark upon my honesty, my willingness to expose my vulnerabilities and the ups and downs of my journey. I also feel like a fraud.

Charles Walter Smith, liar.

Last night I was watching the news. Lie. I was doing the dishes and cleaning up after having made a delicious gluten-sugar-additive-free dinner during which process I was half-listening to the news being watched by my sister and niece in the next room. The GOP front-runner was spouting more of his outrageously specious blather, pontificating unchallenged by the newsperson, bloviating bogus “facts” he was clearly making up as he went along. I said to my sister and niece, “Holy crap, that’s what I do — make things up as I go along, and, just like that lunatic, I actually believe what I’m saying…

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Unfortunate Timing.

February 1, 2016

broken There was a television show I liked very much called Once and Again. It was a quiet show, basically a family drama. In one of the last episodes of the series, a character named Karen, who has had a rough time of it, gets very depressed. Unable to help herself alone, she eventually seeks the help of a therapist. It’s a slow process, climbing back into life, but she does it. One day, near the end of a therapy session, she laughs about something inconsequential, and she knows she will be okay. She knows she will be happy. But before she has a chance to announce her return from the dark side to her family and friends; before she has time to enjoy the lightness of being she has worked to achieve, she is hit by a car.

This was on my mind last night as I struggled to feel comfortable enough to sleep with my recently broken shoulder.

I’d spent the last 4 months trying to regain my sense of joie de vivre. I had been so sad, so crushed by an unexpected event and for a while there, even though I knew I would be okay, it seemed to be taking much longer than it should have. I was scared of never feeling really joyful again.

Then, like an unexpected delivery of flowers, there it was. I felt a surge of inner strength, a desire to move forward and a belief that I could not only heal, but be BETTER. Feeling this was was joyful in and of itself. I’d come home during an 8 hour shift to walk Alice, check e mail, and head back to work. It was dark, but not the dark of December. It was cold, but not icy cold. I was happy to walk my dog and I was enjoying the pop tunes playing in my ear thanks to my trusty old i pod. I was aware that I felt happy the way you are aware of health after a long illness. Alice and I were just a few houses from our own red door. There was some residual snow and ice from Rhode Island’s one real snowfall, but for the most part the remaining patches were almost pathetc. They certainly were no match for this new me, drunk on happiness. I had boots on, with treads. My left hand held Alice’s leash and my right hand was in my coat pocket, wrapped around the I pod. I stepped on one of those small spots of ice. I lost my balance and fell forward. I knew I was broken.

This is the first time in my life I have ever broken a bone. It is the humerus, a common break according to Google. During that four month period when I was so sad, I kept hoping for some small something bad to happen to me. Nothing too serious, or too long term. But something that would allow me to have time to cry, to be weak without being seen as weak. I wanted a little t.l.c., a little extra kindness. I craved a chance to just step out of my life for a few days. It’s ironic then that on this day when I was glad for my strength and resolve, I was taken out by a 6 inch circle of ice.

There is no moral to the story. It was an accident. My plans for moving forward are put on hold. I did not break my arm because I was under stress. I broke it because I fell on cement. I know I’ll be able to resume my plans when my bone heals. I was happy and that happiness is not going away. In spite of the pain I have now, and the weeks of recovery ahead of me, I know that happiness is inside of me. It just has to wait a bit longer to reveal itself. I can wait.