Sari Khoury

by Samia A. Halaby

Sari Khoury was born Palestine in 1941. Jerusalem is the great Arab city in which he was born and which he loved. He described it to me with tenderness. He rememberd the pain of having been forced to leave it. Ever since childhood his love of painting and of Palestine intermixed. He studied art informally in Palestine and imbibed many of the Arabic cultural traditions of Jerusalem from family and friends. His formal training took place in the U.S. at the distinguished Cranbrook Academy where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. Sari taught drawing and painting at Central Michigan University and continued to do so until his death in 1997.

Excitement filled me when I first met Sari in the eighties. I liked him right away. He showed me some of his work. I was impressed with it and elated to find another Palestinian artist. At that time it seemed like a minor miracle. I was excited to see the flavors of Arabic calligraphy in his work co-existing with the radical formal qualities of twentieth century abstraction. He knew the history of Arabic geometric abstraction. But Sari also liked to look at traditional work and learn from it even as he was conscious of his artistic ancestry in the Arab World. In 1996 her wrote to me "My sabbatical went by fast. Trip to Spain was very enlightening in terms of Arab history and its impact on Spain. I also spent time looking at Goya, El Greco, and Zurburran." Please read sari's own description of influences on his work.

Then one day after having stumbled onto my home page on the World Wide Web, Sari sent me email congratulating me. We began a correspondence and I, wanting to curate a WWW show on Arab artists, asked him to send me some information about himself. Among the things he sent was a brief resume and formal statement about his work. These pages are based on our correspondence and I publish it posthumously because his work will have meaning to others. I would have liked him to see it.

In 1996 I went to teach as a guest artists for a few weeks at BirZeit University. I wanted to take with me a quantity of prints and drawings as a gift for their collection. Before going, I had written to Sari asking him if he would like to contribute. I knew that he shared my sentiments about that Palestine we lost and that he would have liked to contribute to the Palestine we will build. Sari sent two of his beautiful works on paper; but what was wonderful is that he moved his fellow professors at Central Michigan University to also contribute work. I received from him a package full of drawings many of them serious color work on paper. The large number is a witness to his charisma. It seems that many other artists admired him and their generosity meant that, through him, they had learnt to understand what really is happening in Palestine.

BirZeit University was pleased to receive the gift from Sari and quickly acknowledged it.

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Copyright, Samia A. Halaby, 1998, All rights reserved. To request permission to reproduce any part of these words or pictures CLICK HERE.

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