Found in Translation: ‘The Light of the Sublime’ at RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts

Contemporary artist books on display with verse by Persian poet J. M. Rumi

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“Fragments of Light 5,” published by Vincent FitzGerald & Co., interpreted by Zahra Partovi

One who is pure is drowned in the light of the Sublime
He is the son of no one, free from time and states of feeling

—Jalaluddin Mohammad Rumi

The Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting an exhibition of innovative contemporary livres d’artistes based on the Persian poetry of Jalaluddin Mohammad Rumi (1207-1273).

“The Light of the Sublime: The Works of Rumi as Interpreted by Zahra Partovi and Vincent FitzGerald & Co.” debuts on April 12. The show opens at 5 p.m. with an image projection of “Fragments of Light 6” by Naho Taruishi, with harp performance by Alyssa Reit and sound by Zahra Partovi; followed by a reception until 7:30 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 6.

For the past 30 years, Vincent FitzGerald has been publishing selections from “The Masnavi” of the 13th century Persian poet Rumi in translations with visual art by contemporary American and international artists. To date, there are 15 such publications in the series.

Rumi is an iconic figure in the history of Persian and Iranian literature. He was first a mystic and a teacher, but late in life turned to poetry to express basic precepts on Sufic philosophy, love and closeness to God.

Scholar and translator Partovi, a graduate of Tehran and Columbia Universities, has dedicated several decades to research on his writings. Partovi says to achieve total fidelity to the original text of Rumi requires not only thorough knowledge of both languages, “but the surrender of ego in reverence to the author who needs to be reborn in another language and the reader who invests his sincere trust as he reads a book of poetry in translations.

“I am fortunate to have seen the visible face of that trust in the works produced by publisher Vincent FitzGerald and over two dozen artists who have worked on Rumi’s poetry through my translations. Working with Rumi’s poetry and the magnitude of his thinking is a humbling experience.”

Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, assistant curator of RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection, says: “Vincent FitzGerald has published over 45 limited edition books and 39 of the titles are housed in the Cary Collection. Fine printing, calligraphy and innovative binding styles characterize each title, and when you look at these limited editions, you have to ask yourself whether this is really a book, or is it art?”

The Cary Graphic Arts Collection is located on the second floor of The Wallace Center at RIT. Hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call 585-475-4213.

Note: The Melbert B. Cary Jr. Graphic Arts Collection at RIT is a renowned resource for those studying printing and graphic communications history, bookbinding, typography, papermaking, calligraphy and graphic design. The Collection holds an almost complete archive of the works of Vincent FitzGerald & Co.