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Artists in their own words: Courtney Brandabur


Courtney Brandabur (Photo by: Ian Cessna)

Who: Courtney Brandabur

What: Writer and photographer

Where: Mid-city

Artist’s chosen location for interview: The Bean Gallery on Carrollton

Q: What’s a first or last about someone that interests you?

A: I am really interested in when the first time it was that someone realized they were alone in the world. I think a lot of people find that they’re alone when they’re around other people, which I find really fascinating. At the end of the day you find that you only have yourself. That can be really depressing, but it’s also very powerful.

In regard to the last thing, I would want to know the last book they read. I’m really interested in what people chose to read. Since I love young adult fiction, I don’t often find people who have read the books that I’ve read. Usually people are talking about non-fiction or adult fiction books, but I’m always interested.

It’s funny because people are often bad at remembering titles, so it can be difficult to get a good answer on that one.

Asking about the last book they read let’s you know what they find fascinating. If it’s a nonfiction book about gravity then it tells me that the person is interested in the fundamental workings of the universe. That’s a good thing to know about a person.

Q: Where can you imagine putting your most prized book?

A: If I could -- in an ideal world --I would have a mounted unicorn head with its mouth partially open. I could slide the book right in that mouth. In my imaginary world I’d have a nice, classy study lounge and the head would be over the fireplace.

If I had to actually choose a favorite book to put in the unicorn mouth, it would be Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It’s about a girl who gets a lesson on philosophy, and the lesson unfolds throughout this gorgeous narrative. It’s a blend of fiction and nonfiction, and it’s absolutely beautiful. There’s a connection to Sophia, the philosophical representation of wisdom, and I love when there are those deep connections running through stories.

Q: When have you predicted something and it has come true?

A: I’m typically good at predicting my losses and generally when I don’t have a confident feeling about something it’s because I haven’t prepared enough for it. If I don’t get something, it’s usually because I didn’t put the work in.

Monday - sits

Monday, the pug (Photo by: Courtney Brandabur)

I’m also pretty good at predicting my dog’s movements. My dog, Monday, can’t be alone, so I know that in the morning when I go make my coffee she’s going to follow me. Everytime I leave a room I hear the pitter-patter of her following me. If she’s really tired I know that she won’t follow me, and I can usually tell when and where she’s going to go with me. She’s the sweetest thing in the world, and I love her so much.

I want to adopt another all-black pug and name it Gismo. Then I would have Monday and Gismo, and I have this dream of having an adult tricycle with a basket. I’d have a six pack in the basket with the two pugs, and I could roll around the bayou and make friends.

I’m going to predict and assume that my dogs will stay in the basket because they’re lazy.

Q: What is a song from a movie you hate that gets stuck in your head?

A: I don’t watch movies a lot, so this is a difficult one. But, I would say any trashy pop song that I’m embarrassed about liking but is very likeable will drive me a little bit crazy. I might have it on my phone and pretend to hate it, but when that song comes on I love it.

I want to say that pop music is dumb, but it’s specifically structured to be catchy and likeable. Isn’t that funny.

When I’m writing I also listen to songs that aren’t necessarily good, but they have really awesome story narratives. I’ll drive around, set up a playlist around a character or a scene, and listen to those songs. I’ll be imaging the scene, so the music isn’t necessarily a representation of what I listen to in my everyday life. Sometimes it has to do with building a storyboard in my mind.

I’ll put those songs on my phone and then be totally outed when I’m with people and they come on shuffle. The person in my car will wonder why in the world I even have that song, and I don’t have enough time to explain that this is a battle scene and how up next is going to be a drastically different scene.

Katy Perry can really egg on the characters. Anything that’s a strong girl-power song gets me.

Q: How do you often surprise people?

A: I really like hand-written or thoughtful messages. I do a lot of little comics of myself with thought bubbles saying thank you or leaving messages in that way. If I know someone well enough, and if I know their schedule, then I’ll show up with a surprise coffee or something like that.

Generally, sending people sweet messages is something that people forget about a lot. As I get older and have more and more people in my life pass away, I’m realizing more that I have no idea when the last time I’ll talk to someone is.

If there’s any kind of surprise, I want it to be random acts of kindness, and my way to do that is with words. Some great, heartfelt, mushy notes.

Even when I leave a workplace I make sure to write everyone thank you notes, even if I didn’t interact with a certain person all that much. When I say goodbye to people, I want them to have something from me and a way to remember all the things we’ve been through together.

Courtney Brandabur is investigating New Orleans one bookshelf at a time with her project Libri: The Bookshelf Project. You can look for her “Libri: The Bookshelf Project” on NolaVie every second Tuesday of the month.