Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Dana Fritz

Second Advisor

Walker Pickering

Date of this Version

Spring 4-10-2023


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Dana Fritz. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Laura Diane Cobb


On my birth certificate are the names of my parents, though the name of my father stands in opposition to my genealogy. The script of his signature conceals my birth as donor conceived (DC). The truth of my origin would lay dormant for years behind his scrawl, burying my true heritage beneath the stories of my social father’s ancestry.

Learning the truth, I began to reevaluate my identity. Searching for myself along waterways, I explored the shores of the Platte River as if by knowing its sandbars, flora, and fauna, I would come to know myself. In searching the land, I found traces of people. In those marks, I found a longing within myself to know and be known.

Exploring the idea of kinship, I began collaborating with my family viewing our bodies as evidence of lineage. I photographed hands and limbs, looking for myself. In collaborating, we build our idea of kinship together. My family is no longer defined by a traditional structure. It is a web built by donation, longing, and desire. I have a father, a father figure, a mother, a twin, three full siblings by blood, and eleven (known) half-siblings, and it is a beautiful evolving tree.

In questioning the familial stories I’ve always been told, I began to create my own stories reimagining my birth along the water, weaving together imagery and text. These stories direct the viewer into a space where truth and fiction are blurred, skirting the line between imagination and reality, dreaming and memory. Since learning the secret of my birth, I’ve often questioned why it was hidden and how it changes who I am. By writing and rewriting birth stories tied to water, I encourage the reader to investigate the true nature of my birth. Within the text, the stories offer a refrain of earliest memories. This becomes a lyrical component of new beginnings. Through these imaginings, I rewrite my truth and reconstruct my history. In doing so, I interrupt the myth of family and question the mystery of donor conception.

Advisor: Dana Fritz