#82: Sommer Browning
Sommer Browning is primarily a poet and, by day, a librarian, but she’s also a collector and purveyor of one-liners, both in person and in hand-drawn comics, as well as a curious observer of Denver’s growing cross-cultural art scenes. Her latest project? Georgia Art Space – a new multi-disciplinary arts showcase named for her five-year-old daughter and housed in her garage. For the 100CC questionnaire, Browning explains where she’s been and where she hopes to be going. Come along for the ride.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
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Sommer Browning: Jokes. Jokes might be my muse. The economy of language, the subversion of expectations, the absurdity. Humor is basically the key to me being non-suicidal. It is the most interesting of rhetorical forms (if I’m using the word "rhetorical" correctly). I love the fact that to make a good joke about a thing you really have to intimately know that thing. And you have to respect the thing in some way. I’m talking about truly funny, transcendent funny. Not just run-of-the-mill humorous. Think of Richard Pryor joking about his addictions and fuckups in Live on the Sunset Strip. That is true subversion. To know your subject so well, know its history, its origin, its reasoning, its truth, and then crack a joke about it, undermine it, approach it sideways, betray it. There is something divine in that. It reminds me of that Tibetan Buddhist exercise of creating then destroying a sand mandala. What the holy hell. How incredible and absurd and perfect. Really, anything that results in nothing is worth doing.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field – and the worst?
There are a few best things about the literary community in Denver. First, it feels ever-expanding. I go to more and more readings where I know fewer and fewer people. That is thrilling. And the scene is welcoming and kind. Frankly, the worst thing about it — and maybe I’m sounding too much like a host of a reading series — is that too often there are three literary events on the same night, which should only happen in New York and not in a city the size of Denver. It’s hard to schedule readings, hard to coordinate with other folks curating things, and, speaking for myself, I am rarely on top of things enough to plan too far in advance. So, yeah. I’m the worst part of it.
Are trends worth following?
I have no idea. Probably not.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
Never getting married again and writing movies.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as a creative?
I don’t know. But what flattens me to the floor and gives me the most complicated pleasure (which is how I like my pleasure) is when people say they like my poems or drawings or performances, and I believe them. My all-time favorite thing, though, is when people I love laugh at my jokes.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here – or makes you want to leave?
Denver. Hmmm. Yeah. I have been here seven years, and it’s finally growing on me. What keeps me here, frankly, is that my child’s father lives here. I have lived in many different cities and parts of the country. I’ve always found my place, created projects, worked, been a neighbor and created a life in these cities. My home is my family, my friends and my work. So wherever that happens is okay with me. I would never have said that when I was 25. Or even 35.
Denver has a lot of work to do, though. We need to house the homeless. We need affordable housing so this city doesn’t become 100 percent boring rich people. We need arts grants for Colorado artists. We need better public transportation.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Amber Cobb, an incredible sculptor. I could look at her stuff for days.
The OFF Cinema folks (Jacob Barreras and Libi Striegl) who bring experimental (new and old) film — film film, real film — to Denver. They are hosting the two-week Unseen Festival at Counterpath at the end of September.
And Miriam Suzanne, who can basically do anything, from her raucous, genre-less band Teacup Gorilla to her unpaged, fragmented novel, Riding SideSaddle, from Denver’s SpringGun Press to her talks on CSS at web-development conferences and workshops, and on and on. She inspires the hell out of me.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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I’m going to see how Georgia evolves. I’m going to devote a lot of time to fostering it and a lot of time to watching what happens. I have a couple of book manuscripts and book chapters I need to finish for tenure at my librarian job. I’d like to write and film a few short plays, like five-to-ten-second plays. I want to see as much art and film as I can and read as many books as possible. And I want my kid to read to me this year. I think that will bring me to my knees. I need that every once in a while.
Georgia Art Space, 900 to 1000 Mariposa Street in the Lincoln/La Alma Park neighborhood, debuts with the art exhibit Joshua Ware: Future Bodies; attend the opening reception, also featuring sounds by Path of Totality and visuals by Jeanne Liotta, from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, September 8. Gallery viewing of Future Bodies continues from noon to 6 p.m. September 9, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. September 10; "OtherSpace," a discussion about alternative art spaces with guest speakers Cortney Stell, Jessie de la Cruz, Kate Crowe, Yasmeen Siddiqui Tara Rynders and Katie Taft, will take place at Georgia from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, September 9.
Learn more about Sommer Browning online.