Winter windows

It is Saturday and the trees are encased in ice. We slept with our bedroom window open, and in the deep stillness of night, I was startled awake by the sound of a loud crash. I thought it was drunk students knocking over garbage cans, and then we heard soft voices in the parking lot. A tree limb, heavy with ice, had fallen onto a car.

My legs are crossed at the cafe table by the kitchen window. Morning light shines in. This is my favorite place to sit. On the smooth round table are my earthenware coffee mug, a cup of ice water, my prompt box, an orchid, and a copy of A Land Remembered — my current Florida read. The fridge hums. The half-loaded dishwasher stands open. I hear my husband shuffle paper in the living room. Tear a check out of a checkbook. Occasionally, he clears his throat. A kettle of pinto beans clinks and groans on the stove. The glass lid beads with steam.

I’ve got the kitchen window cracked. It is inches from my body, and I feel icy January air on my hip. The air smells clean and cold and damp. A heavy drop of water splats on the window stool. Further away I hear gentle dripping on wet soil, on cement, on pavement. The ice in the trees crackles softly, and branches sway slowly under a shimmering weight. Liquid pools in the blacktop parking lot and on our cement stoop. The ground is too warm to freeze liquid into solid, but the air is not. A stirring of wind knocks crystal shards from high branches; ice clatters against our windows. I see tiny snow flakes fall among raindrops. The weather is raw today.

I think I’ll go outside.

Iced pine branches by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Iced pine branches

Everything I need to know about creative spaces I learned from the art on Mad Men

Mark Rothko: No. 13 (White, Red, on Yellow), 1958

Mark Rothko: No. 13 (White, Red, on Yellow), 1958

There’s a Dar Williams song, “Mark Rothko Song,” that affects me. I have listened to it over and over again over the past ten years, and though I never knew who or what it was about there is something about this song that makes my heart shift every time I hear it, that makes me feel something: something warm and also like deep blue currents, something both smiling and melancholy, something incandescent like flashes of sunlight on the surface of dark fathomless water. Something I can’t contain with words.

She said, “I don’t know what he meant to me
I just know he affected me”
-Dar Williams – Mark Rothko Song lyrics

Bert Cooper's Rothko, Mad Men Season 2

Bert Cooper’s Rothko, Mad Men Season 2

Despite my love for the song, I only cared about how the song made me feel, and I never bothered to research Mark Rothko. Then, last year, quite by accident, I came face to face with his work. In season two of Mad Men, on the wall of Bert Cooper’s office, was a Rothko. I saw his work for the first time, and my heart shifted. When I saw the painting I felt the same feelings I feel when I listen to “Mark Rothko Song” and I thought, “Ahhh, now I see,” and I understood, for the first time in my life, abstract art.

Many people make the same claim when they see a Rothko or a Jackson Pollack: they snort and say, “I could have done that!” But the thing is, they didn’t. And I would argue that they couldn’t. Sure we can all draw rectangles, maybe even color them in, but I know I can’t mix those paints: that saturated sunshine yellow, the white like shimmering silk, that vermillion red as rich as blood. I can’t scrape a pallet knife to create dimension, I can’t achieve proportions and balance, I can’t intuit where to place the white blocks, the orange blocks, the turquoise blocks, evoke tension with shape, movement with spatters or brush strokes or angles; I would not be able to stop when it was time to stop, to restrain myself from muddying the colors.

Art Credit: Kymm Swank, Structure 2 (Swank's work appears in Don & Megan's apartment)

Art Credit: Kymm Swank, Structure 2 (Swank’s work appears in the Draper apartment, season 5 of Mad Men)

I was walking with my friend last week and I told her, “We finally got curtain rods and throw pillows for our living room.” We panted and pumped our arms. “All we need now is art,” I said.

The new spring heat was getting to us, and she perked up. She’s a photographer and likes talking art. “Oooh, what kind of art are you looking for?” she asked.

Art Credit: Mark Rothko No.5/No.22 on wikipaintings

Art Credit: Mark Rothko No.5/No.22

My heart thumped as I thought about the Rothkos I binged on, the Rothkos I browse on a weekly basis since seeing his painting on Mad Men. His yellows like sunlight blazing on the wall, the electric reds, the horizontal blocks that make me feel stable, that make me feel like the ground is solid beneath me, unlike vertical compositions I’ve seen that make me feel like I’m sliding off the edge of the world.

“Well,” I said, “I really want something abstract.”

She cocked her head at me. “Go on,” she said.

“We get bored with things,” I told her. “We’ll buy a print we like and a year later we’re over it.” I thought of the wooden boats from Maine, the fat fruit from Naples. “A picture of an object will always be that object, you know?”

Art Credit: Autumn textures by AbstractArtM on Etsy

Art Credit: Autumn textures by AbstractArtM on Etsy

In a writing craft piece for The Daily Post, Let the Reader’s Imagination Do the Heavy Lifting, Krista Stevens advises the writer to hold back, to leave things open to the reader for interpretation. To let the reader create his or her own experience. The evening I read her piece, we watched an episode of Mad Men and I started noticing the art on the walls in Don’s office, in Peggy’s office, in the meeting room at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. I thought about art in the terms Krista had written about, and how abstract art leaves interpretation to the viewer. Whereas a painting of an object puts you in a box — a boat is always a boat, a tree is always a tree — with abstract art there is no box. Concrete art is relatively closed, it is mostly interpreted for you by showing you exactly what it is (a pear, a flower), while abstract art refrains from explaining itself to you or telling you what to think. Abstract art encourages you to create your own experience.

Art credit: Butternut by Michal Shapiro (appears in first three seasons of Mad Men)

Art credit: Butternut by Michal Shapiro (appears in first three seasons of Mad Men)

The creators of Mad Men are smart. Don Draper and the creatives display all the behaviors of successful creative types: they free associate, they alter their consciousness, they think, they stare into space, out the window, at a real life dramatic scene. They nap. A lot. And they hang abstract art on their walls.

Peggy in Don's office with Butternut painting by Michal Shapiro

Peggy in Don’s office with Butternut by Michal Shapiro

Throughout the offices of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce are pieces of art that box nobody in – pieces of art that, in Krista Stevens’s words, allow the viewer’s imagination to do the heavy lifting. On the walls of every creative is art that suggests, evokes, moves, art that nails nothing and nobody down, art that can be anything to anyone. Art I want to look at more because it makes me feel something, because it affects me, because my mind opens both into it and outside of it.

This has been revelatory to me. A creation — whether a successful ad, a piece of writing, or a piece of art — does not have to be an end point, someone else’s rendering of a thing that already is. A rendering that says “This is a boat. It was a boat yesterday, and it is a boat today, and it will be a boat tomorrow and for all of eternity.” An artist’s creation can instead be a jumping off point, a piece of work that walks the viewer into his or her own story.

Abstract Painting by ARSartshop on Etsy

Art Credit: Abstract Painting by ARSartshop on Etsy

I want this type of art for our home. I want a piece of art that doesn’t box us in, that doesn’t tell us what it is, that we can interpret however we like. I want art that makes me feel something; I want art that affects me. I want a painting that can be a city scape today, a forest tomorrow, contemplation yesterday, passion next week. That right now is warmth, just a second ago was chaos, and in five minutes is a tunnel into the best idea my creative self ever had.

Originally published April, 2014.

Running with my camera

I know I’m ten years late to the party, but when I was stuck in an airport on the way home from Hawaii, I fell in love with Instagram. I blame Brie Demkiw and her breathtaking photostream from our Kauai meetup. I added my own Hawaii photographs in the Atlanta airport while I awaited a homebound flight, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Sheep on December run by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Sheep, December 21, 2014

Now, Instagram is what inspires me to run. After shoving my phone in the strap of my sports bra on a couple of winter jogs, then pulling it out to photograph sheep, or a bale of hay, I have become addicted to the challenge of shooting something different on my route every time I run.

Dried winter thistles photograpgh by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Thistles, December 23, 2014

Hilly path by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Running path, December 24, 2014

Hay bale by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Hay bale, December 26, 2014

And every time I walk.

Cornfield by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Corn field, December 28, 2014

Rainy day fence by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Fences on a gloomy day, December 29, 2014

I love playing with Instagram’s filters to add atmosphere to my not-so-great phone-photos.

Llama and a cloud by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Llama and a happy cloud, December 31, 2014

Stroubles Creek, by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Stroubles Creek, January 2, 2015

Spooky tree by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Spooky tree, January 4, 2015

With the limitations of my phone’s camera (close-ups are pretty terrible), I’m running out of ideas for how to capture my route in new ways. Today I was inspired by the Daily Post’s Shadowed photo challenge and squeezed out one more new perspective.

My shadow by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

My shadow, January 11, 2015

As the seasons change, so will the photographs. The light will warm, the colors will brighten. Brittle limbs will soften with green.

January sky with tree limbs by Andrea Badgley on Butterfly Mind

Cold Sky, January 7, 2015

Until then, I keep running, looking for new ways to see the same old route.

I’m on Instagram @andreabadgley.