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.



January 10, 2016

There are many things I have not written about in a while. Let me take this opportunity to recap a bit. It is the anniversary of the death of my father, which always makes me reflect and reassess.

My mother: People often ask “how is your mom?”. It’s a tricky question. Essentially she is okay. She is losing more and more of who she is, which is to say, her memory. She is unable to follow the plot of any television show, but she has the television on all day long. She has been reading Blue Nights, by Joan Didion, for around two years, as this is the book she was reading when she really started exhibiting signs of dementia. She knows her immediate family, and a few other people who have remained close to her. Her caregiver situation is more stable. A person I call Saint Gloria, because to me, she is a saint, moved in with my mother,  to see her through this disease, or whatever it is. Gloria gave up her life to give us peace of mind.

Blue Nights

My mother smokes all day. She defies science. She is 85. I visit her at least once a month. It is never easy though some visits are better than others.

I miss who she was.


Art: I had a solo show last year. It was a nice experience. It was out of the way, in Newport at St. George’s H.S., the school where there is now a scandal. I showed 64 pieces, including embroidery, drawings, and paintings. It was a sort of retrospective. I felt so happy to be among the roster of artists who have exhibited there.

After that show ended I started a new series call Manuscripts. They began  as drawings of random shapes and calligraphic marks on a page surrounded by gold, but after something happened to me, which for now must remain SECRET, the Manuscripts became illustrations of the event.


Manuscript: Betray


Manuscript: Secret

I like them. I found them helpful, cathartic, and also a productive way to deal with something that remains very painful. I would like to make them into a small book, but as I was turned down for a couple of grants and because I don’t earn much money and because much of that money goes to actual living expenses I am not sure how to go about making my book. I am looking into it.

I am still doing embroidery and still working on my Stitching Mona installation.

Stitching Mona, so far.

Stitching Mona


I am behind in all skills: computer, book binding, writing, photography. It is difficult to be much of a player in the art world. Last year I gave up my idea of an art ‘career’. It did not change the way I work. I just made me feel less of a failure. But I still  apply for things. I still have a tiny bit of hope.

The theme of the past year was loss. Loss of my mother, even though she is alive. Loss of the relationship I had with an art dealer. Loss of the dream of a show at my long time gallery in Boston. Loss of friends who died much too young. I lost two objects so meaningful to me that I can’t yet believe I will not see them again. I want to think they will reappear.

The biggest loss is the loss of a huge chunk of my self esteem and sense of who I am because of the SECRET.

The good news: I have the best friends, who include my husband and my son. I have Alice the dog. I have met great people through social media. I am buoyed by beautiful writing in the books I read, in the shows I watch. I am awed by a neverending pool of talent which produces inspiring, intelligent and sometimes beautiful works of art.

Between 2015 and now I feel I have aged. I feel fragile. My resolution was to do a push up each day (and more as I can do more) and so far I have stuck to it. I want to rise up and find my inner strength. I want to be better than ever, better than the best Oprah makeover. I want to fight for reasonable gun laws and help people who need help. I want to be a great friend.

The nation is on the cusp of another insane election cycle. There is big trouble in the world. Many people are suffering, as always, and my chunk of this universe is but a blip. That is not a comfort to me. It is a fact. I am going to vote. I’ll continue to work at being an artist. I am going to do my push ups and I am going to be a great friend.






November 23, 2015








How do you talk about Something that has happened when you are not allowed to talk about it? Something did happen. Not life or death. Not a horrible illness. Not a crime. But this something, though it did not change my life, changed me. It has made me sad, and thin, and fragile. The thin part is not so bad growing up, as I did, in a family where one could never be too rich or too thin. This Something has only affected two people (though it involved more), and one is me. It is a secret, which is not my choice. 

The Something landed me back in therapy, for a short time. I have not figured out the lesson to be learned. I have not found a positive spin. Except, I am even more close to the family and friends who have been there for me. 

The other positive is a surge in my creative output. I produced a series, not yet complete, which are a result of years of attempting to communicate through visual art. My Manuscript/Word drawings are the result.

The earlier Manuscript drawings were densely filled pages of random geometric and organic shapes. They had no formula. Each one looks like a sort of calligraphy but they are not words. After the Something happened, the Manuscript drawings became illustrations of the deep, visceral feelings I had. Since I was not allowed to speak of the facts to anyone, except in my therapists office, these drawings were a way to express what I felt and if you read between the lines, convey a story without text. 

I love these drawings, which is unusual for me. I don’t often say that I admire my own work. I have gotten great feedback from my friends. I have only shown the drawings to one gallerist and he was not interested in exhibiting them. He felt they were too personal, and therefore too hard to sell. Most likely they will not result in sudden, long awaited success in the Art World. They won’t make me rich. 

So, if I could, and know that I ask as a person who hates hypotheticals, would I go back to the date before this Something happened? I know that time, and apparently it’s going to be a long time, will help me feel less depressed, less wounded. The event will become a memory. The drawings will be my proof, my positive output, my visible, beautiful scar. They won’t change anyone directly affected by the something. They won’t give me ‘closure’ or vindication. But I would not have made these drawings if not for the Something.

Right now I don’t have an answer to my question. Most likely most people would like to hit a rewind button for some event in their lives. Science fiction stories have been written about the possibility. Usually the consequences are not good. The new outcome is worse than the event they hoped to erase or change.

I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter. I can’t go back. I can’t change anything. No lessons will be learned. But maybe for the first time in my life, and I am 57, I am grateful that at least I do have a way to honestly express myself. It is not nothing. 










Moral Compass

October 7, 2015

Inspector Foyle

Inspector Foyle



I have been knocked off course.

I need an ally like my father, or D.C.S. Christopher Foyle, to help me find my way.

My dad was the only person I have known who could actually change a person’s mind about something they thought they believed without ever raising his voice.

When I was in first or second grade at St. Hilda’s & St. Hughes Sister Mary Margaret was angry at me. I was terrified. She can’t have been more than 4″5″ but she was a nun, and nuns are fierce. I was afraid to go back to class. My father said he would come with me to school and clear up any misunderstanding. That prospect terrified me even more than the tiny but furious Sister Margaret. My dad was insistent. He was at least 5’10” and he had on a suit and tie. He looked impressive, strong, tall. He held my little hand and we walked into my classroom together. I sat at my desk. He strode up to Sister Margaret’s desk and leaned down to her. I don’t know what he said because it was a quiet exchange, but I had no more trouble from Sister Margaret. And I felt the way every child lucky enough to have a parent who believes them feels. I felt stronger.

My dad died in 2007 and I have found myself thinking of him, needing him in a way I had not when he was sick. His illness was long and by the time of his death I was not stunned. I was exhausted. Our whole family was tired, depleted by the medical community, by mismanaged care, by faulty diagnosis. I felt grown up, fully adult. I was a wife, a mother.

I have been thinking about my set of adults because certainly I should know some heavyweights by now. But somehow when you are supposed to be the wise grown up you feel small. When something happens to knock you for a loop you want to turn to someone with wisdom, gravitas, inner strength, and age.

Thus my love of Christopher Foyle. Nearly every night since I have been engaged in this dilemma I sit with my husband to watch 90 minutes of Foyle’s War. Last night he sent a priest off to be hanged. Of course, the bad guy was not really a priest. He was a German spy. But Foyle was not intimidated by the irritation of the clergy who tried to shoo him away, nor by the idiot superior who had to beg Foyle to come out of retirement to fix his blunders. He was quiet, wise, kind, strong, clear, and ethical. I want to reach inside my t.v. set and pull him out into my world, just until this is sorted out. I know he would immediately see wrong from right.

Alas my dad is not alive. Mr. Foyle is really Michael Kitchen and he is not available to help me.

But I know right from wrong.

I, along with my husband and my very excellent friends will have to be the adults. I have to be my own compass. My dad gave me the tools I need. I just have to find true north, and follow the arrow. It will be okay. And when my son finds himself faced with his own Sister Mary Margaret, or something more formidable, I’ll be his adult.


Tsukuru Tazaki and Me.

August 11, 2015

two stories

two stories

From Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgramage by Haruki Murakami. . .

One day his four closest friends, the friends he’d known for a long time, announced that they did not want to see him, or talk with him, ever again. It was a sudden, decisive declaration, with no room for compromise. They gave no explanation, not a word, for this harsh pronouncement.

In 1987, the year after I moved from New York City to Cranston, RI, something like this happened to me. When I moved here I wanted to get away from my life in New York. I felt like I could never become myself  because everything was familiar to me, and all the people I knew, knew me so well. My parents, my oldest friends from childhood, my best college friend who also moved to NY. I didn’t think I could become the artist I was supposed to be. I felt trapped. I thought if I moved to a place where no one knew me at all, I could reinvent myself and finally be exactly what I imagined, with no one to tell me otherwise.

In Rhode Island I was working as a artist’s model mostly at the RI School of Design, but also for a few teachers and acquaintances. I still knew hardly anyone. To be an artist I thought I should be solitary.

Of course I did eventually make some friends. The best friend I had was J.J.. I met her because she was an artist in a group that met each Saturday to draw from life. I was that life. She was friends with two of my friends, and through them I got to know her.

I adored her. I thought she was beautiful. She is taller than me and has straight brown hair (does every Jewish woman find straight hair dazzling? I did). I admired nearly every drawing she made. Her drawings were large, in charcoal and had confidence and maturity. She spoke fluent Portuguese from when she lived with her husband in Brazil. She was married and had a young son I hardly remember.  She could cook and she lived in a big gorgeous house in Edgewood. She was grown up. I lived in a small, under furnished apartment in Washington Park, only a mile from her but in a different world. She, and her husband took me under their wings. I was floundering and she seemed put in my path to help me find my destiny.

She wanted to help me find a man and become a full time artist. She thought I should move into a smaller place so that I could pay less rent. She thought I should have an affair with a married teacher for whom I worked all summer, when there was very little work at RISD. Things got strange. I was oblivious and never asked myself, or her, what sort of game we were playing. She imagined that I would be in a couple with this married artist and she would have an affair with a young man in our small circle of artist friends.

As I write this I can tell you that I can hardly believe I am writing about me. I am married and I have a child and the mere thought of those stupid plans makes me feel ashamed, mortified. But at the time I thought it was fun. I was lonely and wanted distraction from the fact that I wasn’t doing much art, making much money and life in RI was as much of a mess as life in NY had been, in a different way. At any rate, I did make a half hearted attempt to seduce this artist guy which was a complete failure, to my relief both then and now. But that young guy J.J. wanted to have an affair with, M.,…he became my friend. Just my friend. We were running buddies. I was not romantically interested in him, ever. I don’t think he was ever interested in me. But we did run together, miles in fact. And we drew together. And we talked. I didn’t think he knew that J.J. was interested in him. But I was unseeing about those things. I was mature in some ways, but I was so in my own head that I often missed social clues.

One night when I was being an artist, not a model, the three of us plus one, planned a night of drawing. The model did not show, so I volunteered to sit for my friends. At the end of that night J.J. ended our friendship. In my diary this is what I wrote:

March 1, 1987

I am still in shock over this business with J. I guess our friendship is over. I called her after work. She was icy. She told me she never wanted to hear from me again. She told me I was awful, that I’d done everything I could do to make M. like me. I told her I had no interest in M., that she was my closest friend. She said she had never had a friend like me, someone who had gone out of their way to hurt her.

I didn’t become suicidal like Tsukuru Tazaki. But I was shaken. The few friends I had in RI knew each other and I worried that she would call all of them to say that I was a horrible person, and that they would believe her. I was struggling in every way. I started to doubt everything about myself. My very being. I even worried that my old friends might find out that I was as awful as she said I was, and shun me. But none of that came to be. My core of friends remained friends, except for M. and for the artist teacher. We drifted apart as people often do. Still, that event was part of my history, and though I mixed up some of the time frame and conversations the feeling I had was always a painful memory. The worst part is that I never found out what really happened to make her go from loving me, to hating me. I know a few things. I know that she did find out I had no interest in M. because she did eventually have an affair with him.

She moved far away. She got a divorce from her husband. Once I sent her a message on facebook, but I never heard back. But just about two months ago she came to RI for a visit, and asked to meet one of our original friends, R. I am still friends with R. In fact, he is like family. R. wanted to see her too. They met for lunch. She did not ask to see me. He said she asked about me. She was wonderful, she was funny, she was still beautiful. Her son was grown.

Unlike Tsukuru Tazaki I am not going to travel to her new home out west to ask her what happened. I was able to move forward. My hole, unlike his, was filled. I also don’t believe she would answer me truthfully. But when I read this novel I felt a surge of deep emotion. I was glad that such a skilled, beautiful writer was telling this story because I had never really been able to tell it myself. I read it after her visit with R. I wish she had asked to see me. I wish that in life we can have all of our questions answered. I am pretty sure many people have some mystery in their lives. Some friendship that went awry, or some mysterious event. Maybe not. But it happened to me. And it happened to Tsukuru Tazaki, and that is why that book went straight into my heart.

Every Day

June 20, 2015



a customary or regular course of procedure.

commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity:

the routine of an office.

regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
My daily routine:
Wake at 9.
Walk Alice.
Make coffee.
Work. Drink wine. Work.
Go to bed.
     I am drawn to books and movies about people who have routines and who sometimes become the notable person they are because of them. Some find the idea of doing the same thing each and every day depressing and limiting. But I see a romance in it.
I like quiet stories of transformation by people who are extremely disciplined and evolve into a zen master of their lives.
     An example is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murikami. He was already a brilliant success. But I loved reading his account of going from a jazz club owner with a terrible smoking habit and a soft belly to a writer who runs nearly every day in every sort of weather. In his short, beautiful memoir he writes about starting by just jogging a few steps each day, and how difficult it was to do even that. He would put his sneakers by his bed each night, so that he would not have a moment to think about doing something else.
I loved reading about Edith Wharton, who wrote each day from 6:00 a.m. until noon, leaving the rest of her days free to live life.    I love reading about the long difficult days of nuns and monks and ballet dancers.
     I remember a novel about a college bound boy in India. He realizes one morning that he has nearly destroyed his chance of going to college by avoiding all the work he should have been doing during the past three years. One morning, so anxious he can barely breathe, he creates a chart mapping out on a neat grid every paper he must write, every book he must read, every test he has to pass, and how many hours he must study in order to set things right. His family is poor so he has to figure out how to do all of this in addition to his chores and family obligations.    He does it. I read that book when I was in my 20’s. It had an ugly blue cover with poorly designed black type and I can’t remember the title. But I’ve never forgotten reading about that boy and feeling like no matter how far off course I’d gotten in my own life I could find my way back if I created a careful plan and worked at it each day.
     My favorite part of  Orange is the New Black (the book, not the television show) is when Piper utilizes the old, neglected race track at the prison,  and during her sad time paying for her crime she runs round and round and round thinking about everything from her own misdeeds to the injustice of prisons in America.
sleeping Alice.
     Sometimes I think that if I could just wake at 5:00 a.m. and leave sleeping Alice next to sleeping Andy on our bed, make my coffee and head to my studio to work for a few hours, I might become the success I think I should be by now. I imagine looking out my studio window at the dark or the light, depending on the time of year, and sitting down to work. I imagine this discipline would carry over into other parts of my life. Like Mr. Murikami and Piper I would also become fit by running each day a little more and a little more.
     The closest I have ever come to putting this plan into action was when I created my Ulysses Gloves. I set about copying all of Ulysses onto Rubber gloves. I worked on it all the time, bringing the Gloves and the book with me when I had to be away from my studio. I wrote on the Gloves at my son’s voice and dance lessons, in airports, at my mother’s home in Brooklyn until I finished. I had an exhibit, and by all measures the finished work is a success. But it did not transform me.  What is it that I want? Do I need to see my name in Art in America? Do I need to have a big award under my belt? None of the people I so admire did the things they did for glory or fame.
     My drawings are often made by repeating a line again and again until a large portion of a page is covered. Even my Boston dealer, who has known me for more than a decade seems surprised at the commitment I have to spending so much time on so detailed and dense, so tedious an artwork. But making these small drawings brings me close to that feeling I seek.  I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Sometimes doubt enters my mind and I slow down, or stop. I wonder if the drawing is worth the time after all. It’s a terrible feeling. Most often, when that happens I step away and go back to work later. But every now and then a drawing is a failure, and in spite of days of line making there is nothing left to do but throw the work into my trash bin.
IMG_0852     In addition to my drawings I am currently working on a stitching project that is an homage to my mother, as my Ulysses Glove project was an homage to my dad. I feel completely unsure of this project and it will take years to complete. I worry all the time that the project does not merit the time I’ll put into it. But does that matter? Is my dedication that is the point? I don’t know.
     I’ll keep blogging however inconsistently for my dozen or so followers (and for myself). I’ll keep working on my drawings and my crazy Mona project. Other than that, and walking Alice every day, I’m not sure what to put into my daily routine so that I can morph into the artist I think I should be by now, if it isn’t too late.

After the Fall. Dementia Mom. February.

February 12, 2015

Dementia Mom, After the Fall.

My Notebooks

November 16, 2014

I have too many note books. I see them, often at Spoonbill & Sugartown, my favorite bookstore, and I have to have them. They are usually not very expensive. Anywhere from $10 to $30.00. But if I never bought one more I would have enough paper to do drawings till I die, even if I did a drawing every day, which I don’t. And even when I draw every day, each drawing takes weeks. So, I don’t need more. But I love them. Here are a few of my favorites. Most have not been used at all. One is nearly filled.

The flowered notebook is for ideas. I jot down ideas I have for drawings, paintings, everything. I write about housework, dreams, revelations, thoughts that might work as embroideries. I’ll be sad when this book is filled. I bought it at a R.I.S.D. student sale, and foolishly lost the information about who made it. The pages are graphed. I am a sucker for graph paper.

All the other books on this page are empty, for now.

Two note-sketch books This blog is not looking at all the way I hoped it would. I can’t figure out how to make the images do what I want them to do. But I am going to post it because what difference does it really make? This is what happens when I try to be Maira Kalman.


ledger This book has all sorts of accounting type information, names, red type, numbers. It is glorious.

inside music book 2

inside the Musique book.

inside little turquoise book

Inside the turquoise book. This little book is a work of art as it is. Every single page has a different line design. Like a mass produced Sol Lewitt. I will draw in it someday, but I need to think about what would best suit it. I try not to make the books more precious than the art I want to make in them, but this one is a real challenge. I love it the way it is.

inside music book

Also inside Musique notebook. Another beautiful object, as is.

two more note-sketch books

I might give the Made In Japan notebook away. The pages inside are graphed and are silky to the touch.

The end.