PostSecret founder Frank Warren spoke in Walnut Creek, Calif., Wednesday night at the opening of an exhibition of the postcards and other submissions of people's secrets. A reported 800 people crowded the Lesher Center to hear Warren tell stories about the 4-year-old project built around the hundreds of thousands of personal secrets strangers around the world have sent to his Maryland home. The project has already spawned four best-selling books and a fifth is on the way, and Warren's blog, where he posts weekly sets of secrets, has had more than 220 million page views.
The gallery show was an opportunity for PostSecret fans to see several hundred of the actual secrets Warren has received over the years, presented artistically and compellingly. This secret, written on a broken VHS tape, reads, "I destroy videos of myself as a child because it pains me to see a time before I ruined my innocence."
In the dressing room before his stage appearance in Walnut Creek, Warren goes through a box of secrets that he uses in his presentation. He tends to talk to the audience about only three or four of the secrets in the box, but says that he also keeps a stack of "backups" in the tin in case his computer fails.
Warren said one of his favorite submitted secrets was a pound of coffee with a message on it saying, "My secret--My job (for whatever reason) has no inventory. So I stole and sent you a pound of our finest dark roast." Deciding to keep the bag unopened and to display it in exhibitions, Warren said that at a tour stop once, a woman approached him and said he should drink the coffee, and when he asked why he should, she told him that she had been the person who had sent it to him.
This secret, written on golden foil, reads, "How do you ask a ghost for forgiveness." Many of the secrets featured in the PostSecret project revolve around the topics of life and death. Warren supports the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the fifth PostSecret book, called "Confessions on Life, Death and God," will be published later this year.
This touching secret, which reads, "When we decided to keep you, your life wasn't the only one saved," was sent on a deflated children's balloon that has the words "It's A BOY!" printed on it. Warren said he has received secrets on almost every kind of object imaginable.
Warren has said he's received multiple secrets written on Rubik's Cubes, each of which had been scrambled so that he had to solve them in order to be able to read the secret. This one was presented scrambled.
Many people send Warren secrets with original art on the postcards or envelopes or other objects they're written on. This "genuine U.S. snail mail" features a beautiful picture of a man riding a snail.
"No one really knows me," wrote someone sending Warren a secret on a dollar bill. During the Walnut Creek show, Warren was asked to sign at least one of the bills, and when he did so, he seemed to react humorously, saying he'd been waiting for one to be presented to him for his signature.
Sometimes, as seems to be the case with this postcard, the submissions were on display at the gallery as much for the artistry of the card itself, as for the secret, which, here, doesn't seem to be evident.
One nice feature of the gallery show was that many of the postcards and letters with secrets on them were presented in Lucite so that people could stand and read them and see people on the other side. Here, a group is gathered tightly around one of the cases.
A drawing of a beautiful dress adorns an envelope addressed to PostSecret. The secret written over the top of the gown reads, "I'm obsessed with staying in shape because I still think I'm going to star (in) a movie someday..."
This is one of the physically larger secrets in the exhibition. It reads, "This is my 1st oil painting. I fear that doing what I love will never be enough. That no one will ever be proud of me. I'm proud of myself. I know (I'm) learning and improving. Still, (I'm) scared. Mostly, I fear going to the Chicago Art Institute's Summer Program. I'm not sure if it's because I don't think I'm good enough--or that everyone will be better than me. I think today I will let it go."