Portfolio Categories 2D
Official website for artist Nicole Rademacher
Nicole Rademacher, Rademacher artist, Los Angeles, Chile, Barcelona, interdisciplinary, research-based, contemporary artist, conceptual artist, adoptee, adoptee voices, social practice artist, public practice artist, art therapy
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Not Valid For Identification Purposes

Not Valid For Identification Purposes is an inkjet print on Vellum of my original birth certificate suspended with a paperclip and fishing line. It is an exploration of my identity, as this is the only document of the name given to me by my birth mom, a name that was erased for me.

Many adopted people are denied access to their original birth certificates. When I requested mine, the adoption agency created a certified copy and stamped it “Not Valid For Identification Purposes.” The printing on Vellum and suspension of the scan speak to the illusory nature of this document. The flimsy piece of Vellum gently twists and turns as people walk by or breathe when close to it. This person named on the document lives in the memory of my birth parents and in my own imagination.

Can I Grieve That Which Never Was?

Can I Grieve That Which Never Was? is a series of seventeen photo-collages organized in a photo album. The photos are archival images of my childhood with my adoptive family; where I cut my image out of the photograph, and placed on top of archival images of my biological family from the same time period. While creating the collages, I did a deep dive internally, delving into my fantasies of what my life could have been like had I not been relinquished. The collages evoke a strange nostalgia and feelings of loss while questioning the idea of family.

Being Adopted, a project by artist and adoptee Nicole Rademacher

Being Adopted

Being Adopted started with an online questionnaire asking the simple question, “If you could choose any 3 words to describe your experience as an adoptee, which ones would you choose?” of self-identified adult adoptees. 251 people responded from 16 different countries generating 371 distinct words. In order to honor their unique experiences, I created colored index cards with their names (as they identified), countries, and three words. The index cards are uploaded to a searchable database. Being Adopted gives voice to our complex experiences as adoptees. The top ten words were: Lonely, Alone, Confusing, Loved, Lost, Misunderstood, Loss, Grief, Angry, and Complicated.


Over November and December of 2019, I used email and social media to crowdsource words that adoptees use to describe their personal experiences.


total respondents


countries represented


distinct words used


The project is ongoing… Are you an adult adoptee?


What are your three words?

There are more than 5 stages of Grief, a project by artist and adoptee Nicole Rademacher

There are more than 5 stages of Grief

grief (/ɡrēf/) noun: the acute pain that accompanies loss.


According to psychiatrist and visionary Elizabeth Kubler-Ross there are 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) –– she coined these in her influential book On Death and Dying, published in 1969. Kubler-Ross developed these stages to describe the process patients go through as they come to terms with their terminal illnesses, but now these terms are what people often think of when they lose a loved one.


What happens when you lose a loved one when you are too young to talk, or too young to remember? In his seminal book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk explores and explains the inextricable dialogue between the physical body and the psycho-emotional interior landscape. It is in combining these two ideas: of how to experience loss and how our body holds telltale signs of our experiences of loss and trauma that I explored how the ambiguous loss of being separated from your biological family (as an infant, as a small child) becomes disenfranchised grief. I suggest that for adopted people There are more than 5 stages of Grief, and, like the stages developed by Kubler-Ross, adopted people experience these stages many times over and in an order unique to each person and unique to each time they are experienced.


Sadly, our society does not recognize the relinquishment of a child as a loss for the adoptee, but rather as a gain: the adoptee gains a family and the adoptive parents gain a child. Our ambiguous loss––a loss that occurs without closure or clear understanding––is real, and we, the adoptees, have been gaslit by a society that tells us we are ungrateful if we feel anything but love and appreciation around our adoption, because we were “saved.”


When people––children, adolescents, adults––are not allowed to grieve, blocked by an adult or a friend or a teacher or … society, the grief may embody the mind and body as feeling empty, “acting out,” withdrawing, uncontrollable crying, anxiety, an unreasonable reaction to a reasonable request, etc.


There are more than 5 stages of Grief explores my own disenfranchised grief.

Safe Water

Safe Water is a reflective research project composed of watercolors, writings, sculpture, and community participatory actions. The work considers the process of water purification—taking naturally existing minerals, gases, and organic matter out, and then adding other elements back in—as a metaphor for identity construction for an adoptee or foster alum.


As I was researching water and sustainability, I came across an article that discussed the concept of purified water as losing its taste of place*. It struck me that filtered water functions in a similar way to those who are removed from their biological family losing direct connection to their natural community.


I continued to research the myriad of ways that water can be filtered. This led me to DIY methods of filtration and inspired the idea of doing the project with other adoptees as a participatory action. A part of my process to work through and develop projects is to write, draw, and do other creative activities such as watercolors. I began to make ink drawings of possible filtering methods and filling in the drawings with watercolors. Because this concept is something close to me, this method has helped me process the symbolism. After doing the drawings and watercolors, I realized that this would be too powerful to do with youth. Next, I will make the filters with other adult adoptees; eventually installing the sculptures with water filtering through them in a gallery-like space.


This project has two components: a self discovery component where I deepen the water filtration metaphor for adoption through sculptures and watercolors; and a collective discovery component that consists of the creation of a DIY bio-filter as a participatory action that explores the symbolism further. Furthermore, it would be important to audio record the conversation with the participants about their identities as I facilitate each one-on-one workshop.


*coined by Dr. Peter Gleick, Co-founder, Pacific Institute

Gate Pass, a project by artist Nicole Rademacher

Gate Pass

Gate Pass explores correlations between private and public gestures of familial protection as interpreted through the fixture of home gates. I examined ideas of privacy and protection through interviews and observations of the people who lived behind or passed through the gates in the Central Province of Kenya while on a 3-month residency; my research revealed a shared need for security and the lengths we go to achieve a sense of safety and stability. Gate Pass documents these impeding physical boundaries through photography and video, exploring the daily occurrences both inside and outside the gates, while revealing connections of intimacy and formality, alienation and belonging, security and vulnerability.


Installed at Los Angeles International Airport for 6 months in 2017, Gate Pass sought to create a dialogue with air travelers about security measures, a collective component of the air travel experience, encouraging reflection on issues of trust and protection.


The project was made possible through a residency with Maji Mazuri Centre in Nairobi, Kenya and received funding from many individual donors, North Carolina Arts Council, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.


All photos by Panic Studio LA