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Epiphany Knedler

The Great Plains of the Midwest are known for their prairie fields and pioneer history, along with a landscape uninterrupted for miles. Although referred to as flyover country, this​ region is full of tourist destinations for the road-trippers making their way out West. Wish You​ Were Here​ examines the ways the Great Plains region is romanticized using legends, folklore, and histories. This history is often commodified through roadside attractions where tourists participate in rituals, like photo-ops or buying souvenirs, as experience and inclusion in these histories. The nostalgia of these rituals often clouds tourist perspectives, creating complicity in continuing flawed narratives.

 

While the legends of the Great Plains are rooted in truth, from the infamous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to the spirits of the Badlands, the stories grow to overshadow some grim truths of Midwestern history. These stories become a sense of pride and comfort for the local population, who use iconography to perpetuate colonial ideals such as manifest destiny and the Wild West. These ideologies shape historic and contemporary narratives. 

 

The images in this series reveal the reality of tourist interactions in roadside attractions rather than the typical picturesque postcards. The images highlight aspects of truth within the idyll, including concealed histories, tourist engagement, surrounding infrastructure, and pastoral nature. Images have the power to inform our histories and it is our responsibility to find the truth amongst the myths. Today’s contentious social and political environment is a product of the perpetuation of these myths. With awareness of this history, the authenticity of these spaces as well as their interpretations are put into question. We are able to bring awareness to overlooked narratives and respond to them through our actions and revisions.

East Carolina University – MFA