Etel Adnan, a yellow sun, and a personal best

Some things take a while to absorb. I was at Mass MOCA last month, a rather overwhelming experience. I haven’t yet confessed-or boasted–that I was able to go inside a James Turrell light installation. I had failed to do this in Las Vegas earlier this year. The setting was a pretentious fashion store, and the guides seemed harsh and rigid. I felt like I was about to get an MRI. Rich managed it, and had an amazing experience. Here, the docents were just nice art student type hipsters, and it turns out the disabled don’t have to stand–they offered me a chair with paper shoes on its feet (just like on ours). It was…transcendent. Like standing by the ocean in the fog. A sensation of infinity. It felt amazing to be standing next to Rich and I moved around, getting very close to but not touching the walls. Words will basically fail me here.
But a lot of the art just felt…huge, showy, objectified. Then I walked in the rooms of Etel Adnan. I know her as an Arab-American writer, but this cross over into visual seems both luminous and unpretentious.


“The title — A yellow sun A green sun a yellow sun A red sun a blue sun — is borrowed from the opening line of one of Adnan’s best-known books, The Arab Apocalypse, which was published in French in 1980, before Adnan translated the work into English in 1989. Begun at the outset of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the epic poem is a disavowal of political, religious, and environmental violence. In it, the chaos and brutality of civil war exceed the written word — Adnan studded the work with hand-drawn symbols that interrupt sentences and float between lines. Where these small hieroglyphs overtake the text, language has opened up into possibility, though it also seems to have broken into incoherence.”

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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