Seeds from the East: The Korean Adoptee Portrait Project

A.D. Herzel - Kick-off Exhibit: The Philip Jaisohn House , April 30-June 5, 2022, Eleanor D. Wilson Musem at Hollins University, Roanoke, VA, September 29, 2022-Dec 10 2022. Dates to follow in 2023- Minnesota& Oregon


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A traveling exhibit of Korean Adoptee Portraits and Golden mirror silhouettes by A.D. Herzel

In the past year, I have created a portfolio of work that delves into my personal Korean American Adoption story. I have also created a series of portraits based upon the Adoption photos of Korean Adoptees. I have drawn these portraits not as direct depictions of photographs, but as a redressing of historical artifacts and the perspective of the narrative surrounding them. 

Very often the narrative around an adoption photo comes from the adoptive parent's voice and a post-adoption life. In this project, I have interviewed volunteer participants to learn what was known about their lives before and after the photo was taken.  Those stories are theirs to tell in whatever time or form they may or may not choose to share. What concerned me, and what I reflected upon through this project is the overlap, the intersection of identities. We all have had to reconcile our lives as "Korean orphans," with our lives as American adoptees.

The clay board portraits are delicate examinations of children with histories, known or unknown, but as real, as important, as beautiful and precious as the stories lived after the pictures. 

 Complementing the drawings are golden silhouette portraits. These mirror reflections of the portraits begin with the symbol of the adoptee's mother's desire, their favorite flower. Each organic abstraction utilizes symbols and metaphors rendering the complexity of the struggle for a child that begins their second life preconditioned by the erasure of their first life and ultimately as an object of desire. How well that desire impacted my participants' lives is illustrated to garner understanding and empathy. 

As part of the educational and mentorship commitment I have made to my community of Korean American Adoptees, I created this Exhibition and Educational outreach project to honor the lives of my participants and to open a much-needed dialogue around issues of transracial adoption, Korean American adoption, post-adoption mental health, and Asian American Identity.

As we are dispersed around the nation, the opportunity for KADS to come together, support, process, and give language to our unique struggles as minorities in American societies is vital. Contemporary issues and historical legacies created by our countries, our societies, and our adoptive families are all woven into the fabric of our struggles and successes.

As an Artist, I have practiced making Art because it is the work that balances and sustains me. As a meditative coping strategy, this practice has helped me process the life I was given and create the life I choose. Sharing the possibility of this moment through, reflection, acknowledgment, choice, growth, and this work is simply the best thing I can do for my fellow Korean Adoptees, their families, and the communities they are a part of.

The exhibit will Kick off on April 30th, 2022 at the Philip Jaisohn House in Media, PA. From September 29 - December 10, 2022 it will be shown at The Eleanor D Wilson Museum at Hollins University, in Virginia. I am currently looking for venues in Minnesota with the support of Adoptee Hub and if I reach my funding goal, it will travel to Oregon. This National tour is important because many of the portrait participants are from around the country and they are just a sampling of the at least 160,000 Korean Adoptees spread around the United States. 

All funding will go toward, framing, transport costs, and costs related to hanging and presenting the work at multiple venues.

The portfolio may be viewed on my website:

Reward Levels

Community- 10$ 1 postcard from the portfolio with a personal Thank you. 100 available

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Advocate- 25$, 1 postcard with a personal Thank you & a Korean Love/Sarang reflective vinyl sticker. 38 available


Dreamer- 50$, 1 postcard  & the Korean Eyosin/Goddess of wealth reflective vinyl sticker with a personal Thank you. 39 available


Gold – 100$, 1 postcard with a personal Thank you &  8x10" archival, hand-signed digital print - pink or bluebird of Oester or pink border, blue border. 27  Available

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Flower- 150$, 1 postcard with a personal Thank you & A hand-drawn golden Flower girls, 4x6”. 30 available

Left to Right -  A. Hope                                                    B. Fortitude                                                C. Love


Eosin- 250$, 1 postcard with a personal Thank you & A hand-drawn golden Eyosin snake - The Korean Goddess of wealth, on Hanji paper, 5x5". 25 available


A. Stargazer


B. encircled fortress


C. my golden heart


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