Exhibit marks Turkey’s first female sculptor

Exhibit marks Turkey’s first female sculptor

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Exhibit marks Turkey’s first female sculptor

Only one piece belonging to Gerekmezyan will be showcased at the exhibition because a major portion of her works is missing.

The Getronagan Armenian High School in Istanbul’s Galata neighborhood is hosting a special exhibition for pioneering Armenian sculptor Mari Gerekmezyan, the lover of renowned Turkish poet and painter Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu.

The exhibit will run until Dec. 23, and an accompanying booklet will be published after the exhibition.
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, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News. “But she was overshadowed by [her lover] Bedri Rahmi since she was very young and had not yet made her first works during that period. Her relatives and the arts environment preferred to ignore Mari.”

Nonetheless, Sönmez thinks that Mari inspired Bedri Rahmi in his many poems and that she was a devoted woman.

“She fell in love with a married man, and she lost her relatives and friends for that choice. The most important thing that made their love stronger was art. The traces of this love are found in both of their works. They share many things in common such as the view of Anatolia, the image of women and themes of love. If we collected the sculptures of Mari, we can detect the influence of Bedri Rahmi in her works,” Sönmez said.

Her missing works

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.

Who was Mari Gerekmezyan?

Born in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri’s Talas district, Mari Gerekmezyan graduated from
Esayan Armenian Girls’ High School in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu neighborhood. During her high school
years, she met the renowned Turkish author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, and this acquaintance led her to a philosophy education. She also received education at Fine Arts Academy. She died from tuberculosis at the age of 34 in 1947.