The American War

Photographers Pao Houa Her and Sadie Wechsler explore the lasting global impacts of The American War in Vietnam, across Southeast Asia and the United States.

Black and white photo taken from inside a cave, looking outward at a cloudy sky.

The American War

February 6, 2020 - March 21, 2020

Reception: February 6, 2020

Photographers Pao Houa Her and Sadie Wechsler designed this exhibition taking inspiration from the layout of an archives' research room. It features photographic and video works, both created and found by the artists, that expose the legacy and residue that remains in Southeast Asia and the United States in the aftermath of what is known stateside as the Vietnam War.

The American War, which is the common name used for the Vietnam War (1955 - 1975) in Southeast Asia, caused more than 3 million casualties and a legacy of lasting trauma for the people and the lands of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and the United States. The war also contained conflicts in countries outside of Vietnam, including The Secret War in Laos. The Secret War, run by the CIA and executed by the US Air Force, ravaged over 30 percent of the countryside, contributed to nearly half-million Lao refugees. To this day unexploded ordnance in Laos is still detonating, taking life and land from the folks in the countryside. Her and Wechsler look at the scar of these wars and how they continue to shape lives and land across the world.

"We invite visitors to enter our place of research, to examine the complicated connections, and the rippling effects of war on the people and the countries that have been impacted. We also are addressing how openness, curiosity and dialogue are catalysts for new and deeper relationships and learning."

- Pao Houa Her and Sadie Wechsler

The exhibition consists of over 40 objects including contemporary photography by Her and Wechsler, historical images, poetry and video for visitors to explore. Her and Wechsler created and collected materials, including works from the National Archive in Washington, D.C., that reflect the life-altering effects the war continues to have on the people who lived in the region - especially the Hmong people from Laos. Accompanying the exhibition, the artists have produced a double-sided poster featuring artwork by both artists, alongside a commissioned poem by Hmong American poet May Lee Yang. This publication is free for all who attend the show.

What To Expect

This exhibition presents the viewpoints and perspectives of two individual artists. One artist, Pao Houa Her, is a Hmong-American who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Laos and whose family and homeland were directly impacted by the American War in Vietnam. The second artist, Sadie Wechsler, is a white U.S. citizen whose family protested the Vietnam War.

The artwork interprets the themes of war, violence, trauma, migration, diaspora, and assimilation. There is no “graphic” imagery directly depicting violence, although the fact that violence has happened is implied.

Artist Bios

Pao Houa Her was born in 1982 in Laos, and was raised in Saint Paul, MN. She currently lives in the Twin Cities region. She received a MFA in Photography from the Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2012 and a BFA in Photography from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2009. Her received a Jerome Fellowship for Emerging Artists in 2013 and was awarded Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2009 and 2012. She also received an Alice Kimball Fellowship in 2012.

Sadie Wechsler (born in Seattle) received a BA from Bard College in 2007 and an MFA from Yale School of Art in 2013. Her work has been show nationally and internationally and was included in Format Festival England and Beijing. She has been included in group shows at Aperture Gallery, Belfast School of Art, Photoville, and Newspace Center for Photography, and has had solo shows at DeSoto Gallery and Gallery 4Culture. Wechsler has received the Delivan grant from Bard College and the smArt Ventures Grant from the City of Seattle. She has been an artist in residence at Anderson Ranch Art Center and the Arctic Circle Expedition. In 2016, she self-published her first monograph Part I: Redo and her work can be found in the collections of the Yale University Library, the Hammer Art Museum, the Getty Research Institute and the King County Portable Collection.


Download the press kit for The American War

Image: Pao Houa Her, Cave in Laos, Inkjet print, 2017

Additional Works from "The American War"

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The Office of Arts & Culture promotes the value of arts and culture in, and of, communities throughout Seattle. It strives to ensure that a wide range of high-quality artistic experiences are available to everyone, encourage artist-friendly arts and cultural policy.