Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Notes from the PostSecret Gallery

I've recently had the privilege to work with my old friend Frank Warren on his collection of over 13,000 "postsecret" postcards, part of which is on view at a local gallery. In case you haven't logged onto the internet for eleven months, PostSecret is an ongoing art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Launched in January of this year, Frank's blog is now the third most popular on earth.

For the past few weeks, I've been helping Frank at the gallery space by taking payments for his book, talking to people, and pitching in where I can. And I've observed a few striking things.

First, in addition to the typical artsy crowd of college students and hipsters,
the exhibit attracts hundreds of people that you would never expect at an art gallery. Here's a sampling of the characters I've spoken to in the past two weeks: Two older married French physicians visiting the US as exchange visitors; A mother and daughter who'd driven from Connecticut just to see the gallery, and who mentioned that their dad had just died; A middle-aged African American woman who sings gospel in a local church group; three deaf women in their early 20s; A dad in a camouflage cap, his wife and 15-year-old son; Four super-cute DC private school girls; A white, middle-aged suburban-looking man who said he happened to be walking by the gallery space, stopped in, and had been there for almost three hours; A Brazilian dad and his teenage son; A drunk 18-year-old with a fat lip who said, "I'm not the type of dude who'd go to an art thing, but this is really cool."; A 12th grade teacher from Los Angeles in a black leather jacket who bought the book to show his class of inner city kids back home.

Secondly, Frank is able to answer the same set of questions from gallery-goers with steadfast patience and sincerity. "How did you get the idea? How do you choose the postcards? How many postcards do you receive?" Gallery visitors asked Frank those questions hundreds of times, but he takes his time responding and doesn't leave out key details. An amazing ability.

Lastly, the media coverage can only be described as a stampede. During my first week, Frank was interviewed on CNN, MSNBC (Tucker Carlson live), Fox and local news Channel 9, but that's a small portion of the attention it's received.

Do most artists or curators hope that their work will be this well-received by the public? If so, how many can say it's happened to this degree? Each visitor browsed the PostSecret gallery for an average of an hour and a half. When they come to our table, they have a sort of exhausted, enlightened look on their faces, many half-speechless. I'll skip all the introspection about the psychology of secrets, and suggest that you see the gallery and judge for yourself.

The exhibition is on view in Georgetown through January 8th.

I am completely in love in with PostSecret and find the combination of old school paper and free expressal is a beautiful thing that keeps me coming back again and again. I am usually collecting vintage postcards to get my own secrets, but PostSecret is like an IV drip of gorgeous thought, revealed. Would love to meet Frank sometime!
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