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Union Gallery displays local secrets, artwork

From his home in Germantown, Maryland, Frank Warren, sifts through postcards about fifty hours each week. His wife and mail carrier have gotten used to it, he said, since it’s been like this for four years. What they have adjusted to is 1,000 postcards arriving for Warren, the creator of the PostSecret project.

Like most successes, this one started off as a dream. This dream, however, was not a distant hope, it was a literal dream in the night.

In December 2003, Warren took his first trip to Paris, France. His first day in town, he purchased three postcards featuring Antoine de Saint-Expery’s “Little Prince.” That night, he placed the cards in his nightstand.

Warren knew he was dreaming, but in the vision he found himself in his Paris hotel room, opening the nightstand, and examining the cards. The cards had been changed—decorated with messages, “unrecognized evidence from forgotten journeys unknowingly rediscovered” and a message about a reluctant oracle postcard art project.

When Warren awoke, he tried to recreate the postcards from his nightstand so they would look like the ones from his dream. The remade postcards would be the first work that would send Warren on a life-changing project.

The following January, Warren started the “Reluctant Oracle” project. For this project, he created and released a new work each Sunday. The last message donated to the project revealed to Warren, “you will find your answers in the secrets of strangers.” The following Sunday, the PostSecret project was born.

Since then, strangers have shared more than 200,000 secrets through the project. The rules are simple: the secret has to be true and something that has never been revealed to another person.

The secrets are then posted each Sunday on Warren’s blog, www.postsecret.com. His Web site has been viewed more than 100 million times, making Warren “the most trusted stranger in America.”

Aside from sorting secrets, Warren spends weeks on the road traveling with his PostSecret exhibit. Warren visited LSU November 20 where the exhibit is currently on display in the LSU Student Union Gallery. During an event in the Bo Campbell Auditorium, Warren showed students and guests several postcards which have been banned from his PostSecret books. He then opened up the floor for those who wanted to share a secret.

Warren said the kind of secrets shared during an event are different from those he gets in the mail.

“Part of the reason it’s called PostSecret is because of what happens after the secret is shared,” Warren said.

The secrets range from funny confessions to sexual secrets. Warren said he received about 50 political postcards around election time and often gets holiday themed cards around this time of year.

“Most of the secrets I see have to do with loneliness,” Warren said. “People are searching for someone they can share their secrets with.”

Warren said he owes the success of his site to the postcards’ artists.

“People can connect through the voices on the cards,” he said. “Whether they are sexual, funny, hopeful, or shocking, they are authentic.”

Although Warren has seen thousands of postcards, a few are engrained in his memory.

“I got one a few years ago that was mailed to me on a Starbucks cup,” he said. “It said, ‘I serve decaf to customers who are mean to me.’”

Warren even reveals his own secrets, one in each PostSecret book. The project has generated four books, full of the anonymous secrets for the world to see.

In 2005, the rock group All-American Rejects released a music video for “Dirty Little Secret” which featured several postcards from PostSecret. When the group approached Warren about using images of the postcards in their music video, Warren requested they make a contribution to a suicide prevention hotline, a cause he passionately supports. The group made a large donation and the video was a success.

Warren has no plans to slow down the project and hopes more people will discover a secret to share.

“Each one of us has a secret that can break your heart,” Warren said. “You just have to find it.”

The PostSecret exhibit remains on display in the Union Gallery through December 12. For more information on the project, please visit www.postsecret.com.

Holly Ann Phillips | Writer | Office of Public Affairs
Fall 2008

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