Frank Warren has two secrets he will never tell you. One involves the FBI contacting him about a postcard he received. Another is where he keeps his mail, which he has a lot of.
Warren is the curator of PostSecret, a project that asks strangers to mail in postcards that contain a written personal secret.
He will address Lisner Auditorium Friday, Jan. 23 in a talk titled “America’s Most Trusted Stranger,” where he said he will reveal a secret of his own. The talk will mark Warren’s third visit on a college tour running until early April.
Starting PostSecret, he said, stems partly from personal disinterest in his previous career – owning a photocopying service – and partly from an individual need to cope with secrets.
“During the times when the light bar scanned the glass I’d daydream about creating more meaningful work,” he said of the conception of PostSecret, which draws on a populist notion of accessible, DIY art.
To realize his vision, Warren stood on the streets of D.C. four years ago distributing blank, self-addressed postcards to passersby, asking individuals to mail the same cards back with a secret written on them.
“The first surprise was that they came at all,” he said, laughing. Warren also participated in a D.C. arts festival that June displaying the collection.
He says he now receives between 100 and 200 postcards a day and more than 1000 within a week at his home address in Germantown, Md., where he lives with his wife and daughter.
The postcards are released to the public through weekly updates on the PostSecret Web site and compiled in four books. The books provide a space for longer narratives on specific themes, like an upcoming release, “PostSecret Confessions on Life, Death and God.”
Positioned at the forefront of the project, Warren espouses a vision of art as uncomplicated, accessible and energy-driven. Anyone with courage can be an artist, Warren says.
“It’s like punk art. It’s like people’s art,” he said of the collection of postcards, later relating the appeal of common art to early punk efforts like New York 1980s outfit the Ramones.
Though acting as the curator of the project, Warren admits to submitting secrets to PostSecret.
“Strangers’ courage allowed me to face a secret I had been hiding from myself for over 30 years,” Warren said.
Tickets for “America’s Most Trusted Stranger” are still available. Student tickets are $7 with a valid ID.