Walking Mr. Sweetie.

June 4, 2017


I appreciated this nice day, sandwiched as it was between soggy cold ones. 

Mr. Sweetie and I were on a walk. He is the rescue dog my mother got just before her mind really started to go. He is mostly Yorkie. Walking Mr. Sweetie is the only real help I can offer my mother’s round the clock angel caregiver, G.. She doesn’t mind this chore, but still, it is nice for her to have a break. Mr. Sweetie likes to sniff every millimeter of every inch. Dirt, cement, poles, trees, anything that touches the ground is his territory, so walking him is slow going. He is surprisingly strong, for an animal that reaches only around six inches off the ground. He will not be rushed. 

I had been weepy from the moment I woke. My mother saps my strength. I don’t want to feel that way, but I do. I approach my monthly visits with the admirable goal of seeing through the person she has become, this person who cannot carry on a conversation because she can’t remember what she just said, or what I just said, to the person she used to be. I fail.

Anyway, it had been a particularly rough visit, for other reasons too. After this walk, this small gesture of thanks to the one person who accepts my mother for who she is, who loves her unconditionally even when it brings tears to her eyes, even when my mother says terrible things to her, I would drive home.

I let Mr. Sweetie sniff and pee every few inches. I tried to give him the patience I can’t seem to give to my mother. 

I have been around this block hundreds of times, in now chic Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My parents bought their house when it was not only unfashionable, but considered a form of lunacy as a destination. They sold their stately brownstone (actually limestone) on the upper west side to move to this homely three story house across the street from a vocational school. Now, of course, people marvel at the foresight. 

The ugly vocational school has been undergoing construction for what seems like years. It is covered with a red netting that to me, has transformed it into a beautiful Do-Ho Suh-like installation. I always wonder if anyone else sees this. 


There is trash everywhere because it is New York with millions of people and millions of trash cans spilling over with garbage, plus wind. I grew up in New York so it doesn’t phase me, much. I just notice. 

I was thinking ahead to my four hours in the car, with my current audio book for company. I love the drives back and forth. The solitude is my reward, both to and from. Especially from. I always stop on the road for a Dunkin Donuts cappuccino with a turbo shot. I don’t mention these trips because it is too hard to explain to people that I can’t get together and go to a museum or a gallery. It’s too hard to answer questions about how things are. It isn’t worth it. 

Mr. Sweetie found a square patch of dirt where a tree should be. I know this patch. He likes it, likes the smell and the wide openness of it. He is a small dog, so this patch of dirt is land for him. He started to walk round and round, which means he will poop. That is the brass ring. It means G. can relax until just before the bed time walk. Success. 

I knew I should have picked up after him. I knew it. I am usually very good about it. I am a good citizen and a good neighbor and at home I always clean up after our dog, Alice. But I was sad and tired and felt that considering all the trash blowing about, one small poop on an empty patch of dirt was not worth using plastic, which is far worse for our planet than what he had left. I thought about all these things and even had a pang of guilt but I was so sad that it made me a little angry and mean. This was not just laziness or apathy. It was a decision. A way to feel in charge of some small moment in my life. And so, I walked away with Mr. Sweetie knowing I had done a wrong thing. 

A voice called out and I just knew it was directed at me. I turned around and saw a woman stride towards me. She looked like a movie star. In New York tons of women are movie star beautiful. But really, she was something. She was in her late 20’s I think. It was a nice day and she was wearing a flowing blue dress that came to just above her knees. It was not hipster wear. It was a dress you might see at a garden party, or a fancy brunch. She had strawberry blond hair which had just enough wave so as to make it not stick straight, but not out of control frizzy like mine. Her skin was perfect. Pale, with a few freckles that looked like they were the last thing some deity had painted on her face with a tiny sable brush. 

I knew what she was going to say. I knew she was going to scold me and she did, with her soft, baby, Marilyn Monroe voice. 

“You really NEED to pick up after your dog. I see there you have a bag.”

I said “okay”. I had no tone. It was clear I would pick up what she wanted me to pick up but she was not done. She felt bold, the way an alpha dog feels. I can’t remember exactly what she said next but it was a variation on how I needed to clean up to pick up to do the right thing. 

I said “okay” again. 

And then she swirled around (really!) and walked away. She did not wait to watch me. 

I could have left the evidence of my bad behavior, but I didn’t. I knew she was right and I was almost relieved at being called out on it. I WANTED to do the right thing. 

I also wanted to be mean. All the way back to my mom’s house I imagined telling her, in a sad tremulous voice, that I knew she was right but that I was in a daze because my father, no, my husband had died just that morning. Or had been KILLED. Not just killed, but MURDERED. Or, not just murdered, but MURDERED at WAR (what war?)! Or RUN OVER! I know, bad karma. 

I knew with absolute certainty that she walked away feeling oh so smug, so Brave and worthwhile. I knew she would tell her friends, who were probably as beautiful as she, about how she made New York a more civilized place by shaming some rude woman to pick up after her filthy dog. I wanted to show her how broken I was, and that she had broken me further. I wanted to transfer my shame on to her

But it was too late. She had gone to wherever she was going in her beautiful blue dress. 

I walked back to my mother’s house with a little plastic bag, filled, as it should have been. 

I threw it away, and I drove home. My audio book for the ride home was Anything is Possible. 

Hmm. 

 

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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