‘MTSU On the Record’ guest shares ‘legacies of war...

‘MTSU On the Record’ guest shares ‘legacies of war’ through her art

An MTSU professor shared her artistic interpretation of the bombing of Laos and the continuing effect on the nation’s people on a recent edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Sisavanh Phouthavong-Houghton

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Sisavanh Phouthavong-Houghton, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Art, first aired July 18 on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and You can listen to their conversation above.

Tinney Contemporary Gallery in Nashville displayed Phouthavong-Houghton’s work in February and March. It was inspired by her 2016 meeting with the founder of Legacies of War, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works to raise awareness of the impact of the Vietnam War in Laos and to remove unexploded ordnance there.

WMOT Roots Radio-new logo-2017 web Though she arrived in the United States with her family at the age of 4, Phouthavong-Houghton learned of the horrors by interviewing her father and other family members for a documentary film she produced as an undergraduate.

“It opens up things that people don’t want to discuss,” said Phouthavong-Houghton. “In the Laotian community, it’s really hard for them to open up to you unless they really know you well.”

This map of Laos shows the targets of the first U.S. military involvement in the nation’s civil war, which occurred concurrently with the Vietnam War.

In a review of her work for Wall Street International, critic Daniel Gauss wrote, “If we look at the best anti-war art, we see a lot of what Houghton is doing, with the big difference that she has had the courage and integrity to take the next step straight into pure abstraction, leaving explanatory figuration for the abstraction behind.”

Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, nearly equal to the 2.1 million tons of bombs the country dropped on Europe and Asia combined in World War II. Some 80 million bombs remain scattered, unexploded, throughout the country, forcing residents to leave much-needed farmland uncultivated and killing or maiming 50 Laotians every year.

You can learn more about Phouthavong-Houghton’s work at her website,

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

“Legacies of War,” an acrylic on canvas by MTSU art professor Sisavanh Phouthavong-Houghton, is part of a new body of work inspired by the organization Legacies of War, which is working to raise awareness of the Vietnam War-era bombing of Laos, remove unexploded bombs still dotting the country and help create hope for peace.

U.S. Navy armorers wheel out 500-pound bombs for the wing racks of jets being used in support for South Vietnamese troops fighting the enemy in Laos on March 18, 1971. (AP file photo by Rick Merron)

This exhibit in the UXO Laos Information Center in the city of Luang Prabang displays a cluster bomb dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War, explains the problem of unexploded ordnance, or UXO, still affecting the country, and the efforts of the organization to clear the affected areas. Forty years after the war, death or injury from unexploded ordnance remains an everyday reality in several provinces. (Photo courtesy of

Children in the Thasala village of Laos walk by a U.S. B-52 fuel tank, debris from the Vietnam War when the neighboring nation was repeatedly bombed. The Thasala village was near a strategic bridge and bombing target in the Khamkevt district in Bolikhamxay province, and citizens across Laos live amid unexploded ordnance today. A 10-year-old girl was killed here in October 2010 when she stepped on a cluster bomb on her way home from school. (Photo © Giovanni Diffidenti)