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"

How We Got Here

African performers at King Street Station during Create City 2016. Photo by Sunita Martini.

King Street Station Programming Plan

ARTS staff worked with the University of Washington Evans School Consulting Lab to produce a research report, "Reimagining King Street Station through a Racial Equity Lens" (May 2018), which is an aspirational document about best practices in cultural space programming.  

Watercolor of King Street Station by Tina Kayoma.

Reimagining King Street Station through a Racial Equity and Social Justice Lens, UW Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

 2018 King Street Station Community Feedback Report 

King Street Station Community Feedback Report (5 MB)

About King Street Station

Historic image of King Street Station

King Street Station is a public asset that is an important part of Seattle's history. For over one hundred years it has improved connections, serving as a gateway for millions of travelers coming into Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The station has spurred economic growth and helped establish Seattle as a major metropolitan city.

King Street Station first opened to the public in May 1906. Reed and Stem, the architectural firm responsible for New York City's historic Grand Central Terminal, designed the station. The San Marco bell tower of Venice, Italy, served as the model for the building's familiar clock tower. The structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Interior King Street StationKing Street Station, located on Jackson Street between Third and Fourth Avenue S., is a brick and granite three-story building with a twelve-story clock tower. The ground floor, accessed from King Street, is clad in granite. The walls of the second and third floors, as well as the clock tower, are faced in pressed brick with decorative terra cotta elements such as cornices and window lintels.

While much of the exterior of King Street Station has remained intact since the building was constructed in 1906, parts of the interior have been substantially altered and others have suffered neglect. Similarly, while nearly half of the facility's original finishes remain intact, most of the significant finishes in the lower portion of the station have been removed. In March 2008 the City of Seattle purchased the landmark building from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company.

Under city ownership, King Street Station underwent a $50 million renovation that achieved the following goals:

Exterior King Steet Station

  • Restore the building's historic character and grandeur
  • Upgrade facilities to meet present and future needs of rail and transit users
  • Enhance passenger safety and security
  • Promote sustainable design with a LEED building certification
  • Support efforts to transform the station into a modern transit hub
  • The station is served by Amtrak Cascades, Coast Starlight and Empire Builder long distance rail lines and Amtrak intercity buses. It includes convenient connections to Sound Transit commuter rail, local and regional buses, Sound Transit Link light rail, and the First Hill Seattle Streetcar.
  • The restoration of King Street Station ensures it remains a critical transportation hub and gateway into Seattle for the next hundred years.

Arts & Culture

Gülgün Kayim, Director
Address: 303 S. Jackson Street, Top Floor, Seattle, WA , 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94748, Seattle, WA , 98124-4748
Phone: (206) 684-7171
Fax: (206) 684-7172

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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.