Artist's Statement

Laura Beth Reese

“I have often wondered when (or if) the day would come when I would hear from you. We kept my pregnancy a secret from our families. It was a decision that was tough to deal with, but one I’ve never regretted. We are not in a place in our lives where I can share the news with them now. Perhaps when they are older...I don’t know...”

As a child, I clung to the fact that I was born in Iowa. My parents told me stories about a distant place—so empty, so flat, and so quiet—a faraway land that held the answers to the questions that I had about myself and my personal history.

Not only is Iowa my birthplace, it is the home to my biological mother, father, and their three children—my siblings. When I reached out to her, my birth mother made it clear that they weren’t ready to welcome me into their lives. I am a family secret. I thought that if I could be near them, I would gain some sort of insight into who they are and who I might be. I went to Iowa to be close to them despite knowing that the closest that I got would never be close enough.

But I arrived to discover that Iowa wasn’t really different from anywhere else I’d been before. Instead of finding a magical land, I found a place similar to the New Jersey suburb in which I was raised. Being in close proximity to my birth family didn’t give me the answers I was looking for. I didn’t feel any more or less connected to them by being there. I felt the same.

These pictures illustrate my Iowa: the place I want Iowa to be, the place I thought it would be. They are not a true document, but true to my fantasies about and my dreams of it.