An American Story

Jamie Wyeth, Kalounna in Frogtown, 1986, oil on masonite, 91.4 x 127.3 cm (Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.163) ©Jamie Wyeth, a Seeing America video speakers: Taylor L. Poulin, Assistant Curator, Terra Foundation for American Art and Beth Harris

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Wyeth, Kalounna

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Key points

  • Following the Vietnam War, refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos settled in America. This was often a treacherous journey. The boy in Jamie Wyeth’s painting, Kalounna in Frogtown, was a Laotian immigrant who had relocated to rural Pennsylvania with his family.
  • Part of a family of American artists, Jamie Wyeth continues their realistic style, but also incorporates a sense of mystery and tension that is difficult to define. This painting contains a series of contrasts, many of which describe how Kalounna is both integrated into this landscape and set apart from it.

Go deeper

Learn more about Laotian involvement in the Vietnam War

Read an article from 1980 about Laotian refugees “Refugees Pour Out of Laos, Seeking New Life” at the Washington Post

Read a personal account by a Laotian refugee

Follow the story of a Laotian family that immigrated to America

The Tet Offensive 50 Years Later at NPR

The Tet Offensive at Smithsonian Magazine

Laos’ entanglement in the Vietnam War at the British Library blog

Explore primary sources related to the Vietnam War

Jamie Wyeth talks about his portrait paintings

More to think about

The video talks about how Jamie Wyeth had Kalounna sign the painting along with his own signature, and that this gives Kalounna agency. What do you think means? Why do you think Wyeth might have wanted Kalounna to sign this portrait?

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.