Quarantine Art & Community

By Gaby Barrios

Quarantine has shown me all the ways a story can be told. A good story can live in the pages of a book, in the words of a social media post, or among the lines of a drawing. At the start of quarantine, I promised myself that I would produce a work of art every day. Though this started as a way to cope with the long stretches of working from home and worrying, it has become a self care ritual that brings me closer to others. I draw the everyday habits that make up my life. Things like painting my nails or doing laundry become the main highlights of my days. By placing them on social media, I like to think these images speak to my friends and family, telling them that the minutia of their lives deserves recognition and celebration. Nowadays I wash the dishes, clean my bathroom, and fold laundry just to have a sense of normalcy. When I draw these daily tasks, I try to show the ways in which they can be beautiful and the way they have always been interesting.

The best stories are the ones that reveal something unintended. When you can listen to someone’s retelling of an event and read their secret opinion, it forges a bond between the two of you that, though unspoken, is special. I know something true about you. The best permutation of this is the one in which you keep the other person’s secret. In this new world of isolation, I treasure these little revealing moments. They make me feel closer to other people. This is also something I try to give through my art. 

I reach out to the chismosos in others. The chisme impulse is in all of us, just waiting to be activated by one rumor or another. Now that we are all separated from each other, everyone relies on news sources, cellphone footage, and social media pages even more to know the truth of what is happening in the world. Every day seems to bring a new disaster that demands our attention. It is important to note that news sources have an obligation now more than ever to report the truth of the events that shape our future as a nation. When I write about a liberatory, community-building type of chisme, I am not referring to disinformation. I am talking about the glimpses of life that we share with others on social media, giving them more access to ourselves than we may have intended. These are the types of vulnerable moments with which we entrust the denizens of our timelines. 

That moment in which you see a normal scene that you were not necessarily meant to see is a sort of intimacy. This is what social media gives us during these isolated moments. The true aesthetic of social media is “curated spontaneity:” even though we pretend to upload random moments of our lives with the most cursory of interests, these moments are thought out more than any in-person conversation could ever be. But it doesn’t matter because the true heart of chisme is community, regardless of the curation behind it. We may know that chisme is just as invented as any novela but it doesn’t matter because the point is not to convey a fact, rather to convey community. I hope my art can be this type of chisme. I hope that others can see it and laugh, raise their eyebrows, scoff in disbelief, but above all I hope they see my daily struggles as mirrors of their own. I’m an only child and the only way I know to make community is through a fascinated type of spectatorship. To all those friends with siblings who let me look upon their brotherly and sisterly squabbles, here are some sketches of laundry day.  Go ahead, take a look.

Quarantine art day 182: Shelter/Refugio (versión en español abajo)



The difference                                       

Between the living                                 


And the dappling                                   

Embrace of the trees                             

Is that behind the sofa                        

Is an air vent,                                          

Behind the table is a TV:               

The small noises of an inside life.        

I use the electric hum                           

Of the indoors                                     

To calibrate myself                                

Like a moth uses the porch light          

As a substitute for the sun.                   

The trees have their own                       


Their whispers                                 

Returning you to yourself                      

Like a thoughtful neighbor                    

Brings home the rebellious dog           

From down the street                            



La diferencia

Entre la sala 

Y el abrazo moteado

De los árboles

Es que detrás del sofá  

Hay una abertura

Por donde sale el aire,          

Detrás de la mesa hay una tele:     

Los pequeños ruidos    

de la vida interior.

Dependo del zumbido


Para calibrarme 

Como la polilla se vale

De la luz de la terraza

Para sustituir al sol.

Los árboles tienen sus propios ritmos,

Sus susurros te regresan

A ti misma

Como la vecina amable

Que siempre rescata

Al perro rebelde

que se escapa de tu cuadra.

Follow Gaby Barrios on Instagram: @gaby.barrios.940.