Harlem resident and socialite Lana Turner’s distinct style has always been eye-catching. In 2016, she caught chef Marcus Samuelsson’s attention, resulting in a personal exhibition of her hats in the dining room of his eatery, Red Rooster. At the time of the exhibit, Turner said Samuelsson would just see her going to and coming from events around Manhattan. Though she doesn’t work in fashion, she has amassed a collection of vintage clothing that could say otherwise.
On Friday, Turner’s wardrobe went on display once again, this time at the Projects+ Gallery in Saint Louis, Missouri. Open now through March 31, the exhibit features a series of black and white photographs of Turner's pieces by Dario Calmese, which explore the role of Black churches “as activators not only for imagination but as crucibles for the construction of self” within the African American community.
Calmese, whose father was a pastor, has a personal connection to to Turner's story. “Growing up in the church, the ritual of getting dressed for Sunday morning is a heavy thread in the fabric of my childhood memories,”he told Vogue. Through the photos, it's evident that Turner has a similar collection with clothing.
“While I was in grad school at SVA [School of Visual Arts], I was looking for a few hats for a fashion story I was putting together,” he said of curating “Amongst Friends." "When we met, I noticed her elegance, and I decided that she was actually my subject who should be photographed in the hats. She suggested I take a look at her closet, and I quickly realized that I had a documentary project on my hands.
"We call [Turner] ‘the Pope’ and ‘the Oracle.’ She is a lesson in the art of living. One thing she said that I continue to carry with me is: ‘Life is too short not to be surrounded by beautiful things.’” Let the church say: amen.