Gabriela is far from the first Johnnie to live in this particular room off-campus, but she has made the space her own by painting the walls a rich, earthy red and filling the walls with her dearest possessions. She describes the theme of her room as simply “my self.” By displaying her photos, jewelry and clothes, Gabriela turns them all into pieces of art. Her room is full of colors and memories that represent the facets of her life and bring her joy and comfort.
How Gabriela Uses Space
I love fullness. I don’t have a desire to inhabit an empty room. I love the act of curation, of translating yourself into material and the way you can connect things with memories. If that’s the way I’m built to relate to the world, why not wring it out for all it’s worth?
I get a lot of pleasure from my room! I love this space. The windows are huge, I love it! In the summer I can open them up and I love sticking my head out the window and looking up and down the street. I love how much light they bring in. Out of this window, these trees are evergreens so I always have something green to look at. It makes me feel like I’m in a mountain town, which I’ve never lived in, but it feels nice. The windows might be my favorite part of this room.
My room is my own space and sometimes I’ll have people in here and I’ll sit on the bed and it’s fine, but my room feels so intimate to me that someone coming into it is kind of like someone touching me naked. I have to be very close to them.
I sleep on my bed a lot, so quantifiably I spend the most time on my bed. In the winter, now, I’ve been working a lot at my desk. I like studying in my house more than anywhere else because I can just focus the best. The mental silence that comes from being in your space, there’s less commotion to notice, so you can focus. There are certain things you associate with being calm and when you curate your own space, those things are sort of markers for comfort. I cultivate my home for maximum comfort, love and enjoyment so I have a lot of positivity around me. It’s calming to have your most loved things around you.
It’s really fun to talk about your room because I love my room so much! I’ve learned that I like hanging things, I guess it’s the sense of weightlessness. I like the way they seem to float and the varying levels. It’s efficient and it gives me pleasure.
All this stuff–besides the chair, the trunk and this [ottoman] that I found on the street for free–came with the apartment. So it’s old past Johnnies’ furniture. So it was all already here and I just arranged it. I got lucky.
I got the flags [hanging from the ceiling] when my mom was visiting…and I had just moved in and she was like, “I’ll get it for you!” and I was like, “Yeah, mom!” It’s kind of fun. I like the different patterns and it’s amusing.
When I moved in here, there was nothing on the walls, there was no color. I painted the walls myself because it was a cigarette, pee-yellow before–a terrible color–and I like this red because it reminds me of clay. It’s like a mix of blood and clay, so I like the earthiness of that.
The art above my bed has happened to go together. Two of the pieces I’ve had for a while; some I got at a random garage sale. I painted that blue one. But all of a sudden when I saw the posters I had and wanted to put stuff up in my room, I realized they’re all cohesive, they’re all this person that’s looking up at a distance. I like that they’re all of a singular person in contemplation, so I like the different thoughtful moods that they give to me.
Both of the cameras [on my desk] work. I used to have an interest in photography that I don’t keep up anymore. I used to do some film development, but I don’t do it at St. John’s because I’m too busy. I’ve taught myself quite a bit about analog and how to do manual. What really now interests me is photographing humans, but there’s a really strong intimacy in grabbing someone random and saying, “Hey, your face looks very intriguing. I want to get so close to you.” It’s almost like you’re touching fire and I hope one day to be confident enough to do that.
Q: What is the meaning of “home” to you?
A: It’s primarily a place where you can be yourself. I can shift about and still feel grounded, even in a world where there are so many variables. If there was an actual place, it would be my sister’s farm in Chestertown, MD. When we’re there as a family, including my sister’s husband’s family, it’s the most like home. They have a little vineyard and they’re living the farm life. It’s really cute.
Q: Does this place feel like home to you?
A: St. John’s is definitely a home now, forever for me. Sometimes this home feels like mine, and at other times not as much. It’s kind of a mood thing for me. It depends on how close I feel to others around me and my capacity to reach out to others. I need to feel like there’s a person and I’m identifying with them, otherwise I feel alienated.
Q: Which object in this room reflects you the most?
A: I would say my collection of books, which is so Johnnie, or the quote I keep above my bed. I found it from The Second Sex: “The temporal existence of the blacksmith is both highly particular and larger than life. Through momentary violence, the worker, uplifted, gains mastery over time. Those who forage take on the challenge of the universe rising against them.” It’s a little aggressive and my thoughts change on it, but I wrote it down last year and I really like it.