Cover art for podcast The Institute of Black Imagination.

The Institute of Black Imagination.

34 EpisodesProduced by darioWebsite

Welcome to The Institute of Black Imagination hosted by artist, writer, and brand consultant Dario Calmese. Each week we bring you conversations from The Pool of Black Genius: a collection of iconoclasts at the leading edge of cultural thought and innovation. More than anything, we are here to inspi… read more


E13. The Art of Living w. Lana Turner (part one).

Today’s episode is with Harlem socialite and style icon, Lana Turner. Born at the Women’s Hospital on West and 110th st. and still residing in the neighborhood 70 years later, Ms.Turner is quintessential Harlem, a landmark unto herself. A mathematician of dressing, Ms. Turner does not just put clothes on, but uses her body as a medium in which she expresses her appreciation and preservation of life, style, and beauty, or as she likes to refer to it: “Painting the body canvas.”

A doyenne of mid-20th century fashion, and muse of New York Times Street style photographer Bill Cunningham, Lana Turner and I were introduced almost a decade ago at  the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem when I was looking for a few hats for a fashion story while in grad school. Upon meeting and chatting with her, I realized quite quickly that it was SHE who needed to be photographed, in her wardrobe, and in her hats… of which there are upwards of, wait for it… 500. Actually I believe the exact number is 638.

Here are some highlights:

On the discovery of self: “You know a single woman, single mother, taking care of all of that. But when he got old enough to fly away from the nest, it allowed me to expand my sense of self. Prior to his leaving, however, that sense of self was always in play.” (19:46)

“That sense of self was one thing that allowed for, for example, deciding to change say the furniture in my room, and I woke up one morning and I said, No everything should not only be functional, it should also be beautiful.”(20:09)

On her love for archiving: “I think the archiving element is in my DNA, it seems to have always been there without you know, want for formalizing that as an educational piece in my life, and it's always been there.” (4:28)

On the theatricality of the black church: “But of course, with the black church we are looking at, or at least I'm looking at it as the as a critical foundation for our deliverance from the slavery, both external and internal. I look at church as a way to release the notion of what it means as a collective, to breathe and to pray. I look at the black church in particular for all the things that go on in it that have more theatricality attached.-But I love the collective energies that black people bring to anything. And when it comes to church, oh my goodness. (39:29)

On the art of living: I don’t know what the formula is I don't know if I could articulate it all. So let's see, I can start, I can try. There's things that I love. So I love and I don't need other people to do it. I just like being myself. (27:04)

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