36-year old Dario Calmese and 68-year old Lana Turner make an unlikely pair. But the duo became fast friends after meeting at Harlem’s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. The camaraderie that followed would become the impetus for the multimedia artist’s exhibit, “Amongst Friends,” currently on display in St. Louis throughout Women’s History Month. “[She] not only opened her home, her closet, and herself, but over the course of our work together has evolved from a mere subject to become a friend and mentor,” says Calmese.
The collection of black and white photos and unique fashion objects from Ms. Turner’s enviable vintage clothing collection examines the role African-American communities—typically rooted in the Church—have had on American fashion, pop-culture, and style. Even legendary fashion editor Andre Leon Talley co-signed the display, penning an amazing forward.
His photographs capture every dissection of haute couture exhibited by every Black woman who intersects her faith, her religion, and her personal style.
“Dario Calmese has a deep passion for the Black church woman as a style barometer; a gure by which all beats are fine tuned into a visual Black Baroque,” says Talley. “In their quiet beauty, his photographs capture every dissection of haute couture exhibited by every Black woman who intersects her faith, her religion, and her personal style. She is reborn every single Sunday through the rituals and universal codes of deportment, carriage, and dress. It becomes as important as words, as the hymns… the rituals of the Black Church on Sunday morning resonate in every intersection of the universe.”
The photos shift between admiration and collaboration, using black and white to explore the artistry behind Turner’s elaborate getups. The title, “Amongst Friends,” nods to Calmese’s bond with Turner and the fashionista’s relationship to the art of dress.
Take a closer look at the images below, on display from now until March 31st at Projects + Gallery in St. Louis (4733 McPherson Ave).