My Secret (Canvases), 2012 – 2015

Index cards, envelopes, pencils, fish bowl, and archival ink on 9″ x 12″ canvases. Dimensions variable.

Presented at “Tell Me How You REALLY Feel: Diaristic Tendencies”, The Center for Book Arts, New York, NY, 2012; “Operating System”, Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery, New York, NY, 2012; and “Index”, Part of the Borimix Festival, CSV Center, New York, NY, 2012

Project Description:

This is a simple participatory artwork where people are invited to write down a sexual secret in pencil, on an index card, put it in a small envelope, and deposit it into an empty fish bowl.

Secrets pulled from the bowl are turned into text paintings on canvas, and a small set of these canvases are displayed above and around the station for writing.

The structure of display is intended to suggest that these shared secrets are like beautiful little fragments or gifts, thus diffusing lurid or unsettling qualities in the massage and encouraging the reader to focus on the humanity of the truth revealed.

Inspiration for the project comes from a number of sources. Many artists have worked with the idea of secrets, and there are numerous websites devoted to sharing anonymous confessions of one sort or another. I have also been intrigued by the jpeg and gif messages left by people for one another on line, often showing some cheesy romantic or sexy image along with a simple text message. (The kind of images that were to be found on My Space, Pinterest or other social interactive sites, and not infrequently covered with dancing sparkles, or animated water reflection effects.) Other sites encourage people to take photos of themselves holding paper signs with messages or promotions, or invite others to write letters or postcards and mail them anonymously to the site, where the most interesting ones will be posted.

The project is also influenced by the many short form writing technologies currently popular, including texting, IM, and Twitter.

Most of the canvases for “My Secret” are messages of only 15 to 25 words or so. Use of the index cards, rather than say a sheet of paper for participants to share secrets on, is intended to encourage this kind of short form writing.

Though the project is largely inspired by internet and digital phenomena, I chose to invite people to participate though old fashioned chirography, in part to suggest the feeling of writing in a diary, and also to evoke the long lost art of the writing of love letters, and notions of secret paramours, and found physical traces of the intimate lives of others.