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The diary of a young girl

Found art
By KARA HADGE  |  December 10, 2008

Twenty-two years ago, Jessica Deane Rosner was headed home from a job as an artist’s model in Rhode Island and discovered her car had been towed. When she called a friend for a ride, she accidentally left her diary on top of the pay phone. Rosner got her car back the next morning, but wouldn’t see the diary again for 14 years.

“It felt like I’d lost a physical part of myself,” she remembers.

Then, on Christmas Eve 2000, a man unexpectedly called Rosner from Boston and said he had the diary, which he subsequently returned in early ’01. Presumably, the gray-and-white marbled covered book had passed through several hands over the years, but Rosner never found out for sure where it had been since 1987.

Over the past four years, Rosner turned the recovered treasure into a work of art — imposing multicolored ink drawings over reproductions of 72 of its 8-by-5-inch pages. The result, The Diary Project, is on display as part of the 26-artist Drawn to Detail exhibit at Lincoln’s DeCordova Museum through January 4, 2009.

“The greatest thing about this project is that it allowed me to present everything I love to do,” says Rosner.

The Diary Project drawings represent a range of narrative and abstract styles with which Rosner has experimented during her career. On some pages, blocks of color highlight or obscure the text; on others, she’s superimposed figures of people or anthropomorphic animals. Two of the pages are decorated with her 12-year-old son’s handprints.

Rosner did not selectively cover up any of her diary’s entries, no matter how intensely personal or embarrassing. The daily journal, covering from December 1, 1985, to January 20, 1987, chronicles a “very melodramatic” period in her 20s. Rosner had moved from her hometown, New York City, to Cranston, Rhode Island, she says, “to get a fresh start without [the] distractions” of friends and family.

Her early years as an artist are described on these pages, as are detailed accounts of personal relationships — including an unrequited love and the falling out that ended her then-closest friendship.

Today, Rosner’s diary entries are “less gossipy,” usually focusing on current events or her career. “If I’m going to have something that’s a physical thing that I’m leaving in the world,” she says, “I’d like it to have more meaning about what I think.”

Jessica Rosner will present an artist’s talk at 3 pm on Saturday, December 13, in the third-floor lobby of the DeCordova Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, in Lincoln. Free, with museum admission. Call 781.259.8355, or visit

  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Cultural Institutions and Parks , Museums , DeCordova Museum
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