The Conference of Birds, a New Exhibit, Opens May 18 in Shirley Fiterman Art Center

March 30, 2016
BirdsArtwork by Fred Tomaselli

A new exhibit, “The Conference of Birds,” showcases work by 35 artists from New York City and beyond and opens with a reception on Wednesday, May 18 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, 81 Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan.

The exhibit, curated by Brenda Zlamany, will run through Saturday, July 9 and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, from 12 noon to 6:00 p.m. Art will be available for sale in the exhibit, with proceeds benefiting the BMCC Foundation Scholarship Fund.

The exhibit’s theme centers on a 12th-century poem, “The Conference of Birds,” by the Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar. In this epic, mystical-quest narrative, hundreds of birds embark on a perilous journey in search of a king called “The Simurgh,” who can right the wrongs in their world. They are led by Attar, who has been transformed into a sharp-beaked, crested hoopoe bird. On their journey they pass across seven treacherous valleys: Aban (Flash) or Talab (Quest); Tawheed (Unity); Ishq (Love); Hayrat (Bewilderment); Marifat (Gnosis); Fuqur o Fana (Selflessness and Oblivion) and Istighnah (Detachment).

Some birds give up the journey in each of these valleys, unable to endure. Only 30 birds are left when the flock crosses the final valley — and when they finally find the Simurgh, they simply see a reflection of themselves.

Attar’s poem can be seen as a metaphor for the often perilous journey of self-discovery that artists face, explains curator Zlamany. “This metaphor and the rich imagery of birds in the poem are the gravitational glue that brings together a diverse group of artists for this exhibition,” she says.

The artists featured in the exhibit are: L.C. Armstrong, Brandon Ballengee, Mike Ballou, Rachel Berwick, George Boorujy, Katherine Bowling, Mary Carlson, Elisabeth Condon, Lesley Dill, Eric Dyer, Shauna Finn, Juan Fontanive, Tsibi Geva, Allison Green, Sarah Haviland, Amy Hill, Marya Kazoun, Kurt Hoffman, Sharon Horvath, David Humphrey, Kevin King, Wendy Klemperer, Katharine Kuharic, Valentina La Pier, Paula McCartney, Norma Minkowitz, Laura Newman, Graham Nickson, Jennifer Wynne Reeves, Ron Richter, Christopher Russell, Wade Schuman, Susan Silas, Hunt Slonem, Fred Tomaselli and Brenda Zlamany.

The Shirley Fiterman Art Center, in partnership with the BMCC Foundation Board, a not-for-profit organization, is dedicated to raising funds for student scholarships and ensuring the success of its students, who come from every borough of New York and countries around the world, seeking better lives.

For more information, call (212) 220-8000 ext. 3013.

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  • New exhibit, “The Conference of the Birds,” opens with a reception May 18 at 6:00 p.m. in Shirley Fiterman Art Center
  • Theme of the exhibit centers on a 12th-century poem by Farid ud-Din Attar
  • Features work by over 35 artists from New York and beyond

share this story »