Exhibit marks Turkey’s first Armenian female sculptor

The Getronagan Armenian High School in Istanbul’s Galata neighborhood is hosting a special exhibition for pioneering Armenian sculptor Mari Gerekmezyan.

The exhibit will run until Dec. 23, and an accompanying booklet will be published after the exhibition, the Hurriyet Daily news reports.

Only one piece belonging to Gerekmezyan will be showcased at the exhibition because a major portion of her works is missing. Many Turkish and Armenian artists, including photojournalist Ara Güler, gathered their works together to honor the sculptor, who blazed a trail for female sculptors in Turkey.

“Mari Gerekmezyan is the first female sculptor in Turkey,” said Sevengül Sönmez, a professor at Istanbul Bilgi University who contributed to the exhibition and conducted studies on Gerekmezyan’s life.

A major part of Gerekmezyan’s works are missing. According to Sönmez, 15 have been revealed so far but only seven of them have been located. She said even the location of Gerekmezyan’s Yahya Kemal icon, which brought her the winning prize at a State Painting and Sculpture Exhibit in 1945, was unknown.

“We brought her work titled ‘Woman’s Head’ from Surp Yerortutyun Armenian Church in Beyoğlu to the exhibition. When I started studying Gerekmezyan, I only had a few bits of information about her. As the years passed by, I collected data from various books, and I interviewed her students. When I look back, I realize that I made great progress,” Sönmez said.

Sönmez also said Turkish artists’ interactions with their Armenian and Greek counterparts have become an area of study for many researchers in Turkey. “Now we are familiar with many people other than [Turkish-Armenian] Ara Güler. As we continue to work in this field, we are sure to get to know more artists, performers and musicians, as well,” Sönmez said.

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