Sisavanh Phouthavong


Sisavanh Phouthavong is one of the first professional Lao American visual artists and educators of her generation. 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.

Artist Statement

The paintings and collages capture and embrace architecture and built environment in its state of flux. Teetering between realism and abstraction, I fold space and time to connect with the fleeting world. With ever increasing levels of chaos and complexities of human existence, I find myself drawn more than ever to the space in-between. My passion for photographic documentation and travel inspire me to recreate these moments through the utilization of collage. I want the viewer to experience the longing for a place and conjure moments of ambiguity. This is an elevated visual journal that focuses on my perception and reflection of the landscape. To achieve a kaleidoscopic effect, I employ multiple viewpoints, rhythmic fragmentation, and strong color contrast to fuse both the contemporary and historical landscape elements into one. Photography is a means to remember, reconstruct, and contemplate my past and present experiences of the place. I am putting together a story that weaves visual imagery, sensory experiences, and also personal memories to recreate a moment in flux.


2000-2003 M.F.A Painting, Southern Illinois University of Carbondale,  Carbondale, IL

1995-1999 B.F.A Painting, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

2008 Winter Workshop with Sherrie McGraw, LAAFA Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, CA

2008 Summer Workshop with Ephraim Rubenstein, The Art Student League of New York, NY

2007 Summer Workshop with David Leffel, The Art Student League of New York, NY                                       

Solo Exhibitions

2007 Things That Suck, Joan Derryberry Art Gallery, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville,  TN

2004 Displacement, Union Groove Gallery, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL

2003 The Working Body, MFA Thesis Show, Surplus Gallery, Carbondale, IL

2002 Smell of Art Through Culture, Vergette Gallery, Carbondale, IL

2002 Dri-Bottoms, Vergette Gallery, Carbondale, IL

Selected Exhibitions

2009 Southern Identity, New Orleans University Gallery, University of New Orleans, LA

2009 Texas National 2009, Juror: Mel Chin, The Cole Art Center, Nacogdoches, TX

2008 Observation/Interaction, Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery, Nashville, TN

2007 Ideal, Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery, Nashville, TN

2007 Rat Race, Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY

2007 E-Volution 2, Dangenart Gallery, Nashville, TN

2007 Undercurrent, Vanderbilt University Law School, Curator: Lain York, Nashville, TN

2007 Group 62901, Well Street Art Company, Fairbanks, Alaska

2006 Evolution, Dangenart Gallery, Nashville TN

2006 20x20x20LSU Union Art Gallery, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

2005 Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists Space Gallery, New York, NY

2005 Traveling Exhibition:  Durango, Colorado; Museo de Collage, Mexico; New Plymouth Gallery, New Zealand

2004 7th Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge Benefit Show, Brent Sikkema Gallery, New York, NY

2004 Local-Motive, The Barn Gallery, Murfreesboro, TN

2004 7th International Open Exhibition, Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL2003                

2003 Mini-Print 8, Graduate Association of Painters and Printmakers, Vergette Gallery, Carbondale, IL

2002 Philadelphia Exchange, University Museum, SIUC, Carbondale, IL

Academic Awards and Grants

December 2008 Professional Development Support Grant, Tennessee Arts Commission, Nashville, TN

December 2008 Faculty Development Grant, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN        

May 2008 Instructional Development Grant, Middle State University,   Murfreesboro, TN

July  2007 Professional Development Support Grant, Tennessee Arts Commission, Nashville, TN

May 2007 Faculty Development Grant, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN

May 2006 Faculty Curriculum Development Grant, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN

June 2004 Faculty Research and Creative Activity Grant, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN

Fall 1997-Spring 1998 University of Kansas Art Dept. Scholarship, Lawrence, KS