“PostSecret” comes to Loyola

By Matt Watson

A small series of postcards lines the wall, weaving up and down behind a clear plastic casing. Spectators lean close to the cards and squint to read the words printed across the colorful backdrops. A picture of a uniformed soldier tipping his hat covers one with a banner of cursive text reading, “I’m scared my husband won’t come home because I don’t believe in God.”

“PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death and God” opened at Loyola University’s Ralph Arnold Fine Arts Annex, 1131 W. Sheridan Road, on Feb. 24, and runs through April 9. Founder and curator Frank Warren began “PostSecret” in 2004 as an online community arts project. He gave self-addressed postcards to strangers on the streets of Washington, D.C., and asked them to write down a secret and send it back. Warren had two requirements: The secret needed to be true, and it needed to be something the person never told anyone else before. All the postcards

were anonymous.

The show is open to Loyola students free of charge throughout the week and the general public on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for $5.

James Dunford, student box office manager at Loyola, said “Confessions on Life, Death and God” tied in well with Loyola’s Jesuit mission, which expands knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice and faith.

“We’re very much open to a discussion of faith and spirituality,” Dunford said. “And the more voices that come to this discussion, the more truthful and rewarding

it is.”

More than 270 postcards line the gallery’s walls and illustrate confessions by people who lost their faith, others who have found God and some who feared his wrath.

“It’s a broad continuum of opinions and voices about religion we think is important to both sides of the conversation,” Dunford said. “It’s more about a person’s individual faith, conception of religion and spirituality than just a monolithic label or identification.”

According to Jennie Martin, director of programming for Loyola’s Fine Arts Department, “PostSecret” became a cult phenomenon soon after it began. Warren posted cards he got back on his blog every Sunday starting in 2005. Since then, he has received more than 500,000 postcards. People now send them in from around the nation.

Warren authored five best-selling books on “PostSecret,” and the postcards were used in exhibits across the U.S. “Confessions on Life, Death and God” is a subset of the “PostSecret” collection because of the high volume of postcards Warren received about spiritual matters.

Martin said the university recently opened the Ralph Arnold Annex and wanted to show the space off with an exciting exhibit.

“We thought it would be something the students could really relate to,” she said.

According to Nicole Ferentz, fine art director at Loyola, the Feb. 24 opening reception attracted several hundred attendees.

“[The opening] was completely quiet because everyone was reading the postcards,” Martin said. “I’ve been to gallery openings where people are having side conversations, but this was silent.”

Ferentz said because of the show’s high attendance, everyone must RSVP on Loyola’s website and sign up for a half-hour time slot to see the show. This prevents excessive crowds and provides enough time to read all

the postcards.

Some postcards are covered in bright colors and cartoon drawings confessing comical things like, “I’m starting rabbinical school and I love bacon!” Others are darker, with one stating, “It’s hard to believe God is in control when bad things keep happening.”

“Confessions on Life, Death and God” is like nothing Loyola has shown, Martin said, noting the university usually exhibits professional artists who expect their work to be in galleries.

“This is a collection of people who probably never intended for their [work] to be shown and who don’t consider themselves artists,” she said. “It’s not even about the art; it’s about the truth and finding the beauty in that truth opposed to creating work because you’re an artist.”

For more information and to RSVP to the show, visit Blogs.LUC.edu/ArtsAlive