This weekend the Legacies of War exhibition by Sisavanh Phouthavong opened up in Tennessee at the Tinney Contempoary Gallery. Sisavanh Phouthavong is one of the first professional Lao American visual artists and educators of her generation. The opening reception will be held on March 4th.
I did a profile on her work previously, having been deeply impressed with her art since I first encountered it several years ago. We recently met face to face for the first time at the National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego.
This new body of work is inspired by the organization Legacies of War (legaciesofwar.org). Their mission statement: "is to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs, to provide a space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace."
Over 5,400 Lao refugees resettled in Kansas in the aftermath of the Laotian Civil War that ended in 1975. Through her powerful acrylic work, she confronts the challenges of bicultural memory and documentation. She considers notions of the abstract and the concrete for those who must remember both their inner and external histories in a diaspora framed by secrecy and loss. Her work probes what is shared, what is felt, and what must remain deeply personal among the lessons passed on to the next generation as it heals and rebuilds.