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The art historical accounts repeatedly identify the Turkish artist Gülsün Karamustafa’s (b.1946, Ankara) art with the imagery of popular culture, the question of immigration and gender. Although they give us critical information on the ways in which the historical past and her practice communicate with each other, I suggest that relocating Karamustafa’s work in the situated context of her own life, will provide us with new knowledge both on her art and the practice of art history writing. I elaborate this argument by doing a close reading of Karamustafa’s mixed media work The Shield (1986) with regards to the broader milieu in which it was created, and by reading through the representations of Karamustafa’s oeuvre in art historical narratives. As the entangled histories of two of her friends and her family stand out, contributing to the historical account that surrounds Karamustafa’s work, I reframe the conditions that shaped her political and artistic views. As well as recontextualising Karamustafa’s work, my reading presents an understanding of the politics of art histories in Turkey as I give an account of feminist thought, socialist struggle and contemporary art in the twentieth-century.
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