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Reuben Reuel

Dario Calmese’s “Amongst Friends.” at projects+gallery

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Knowing the ins and outs of how artists and galleries collaborate on exhibitions can contribute to one’s appreciation of the end result. A case in point is Dario Calmese’s Amongst Friends. which opened last Friday evening at projects+gallery.

The genesis of About Friends dates to the formation of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund and its #1 concern at the time it opened: how to heal the racial divide. Susan Barrett, the proprietor of projects+gallery, is also involved in the Fashion Fund which sponsored Vogue editor André Leon Talley’s appearance at the Saint Louis Art Museum last June. That’s where she met Dario Calmese, and when they started discussing this exhibition. A few months later, she and Calmese finalized plans when they met in New York, where projects+gallery maintains a presence.

Calmese seems to take his multi-faceted talent—which surfaced at an early age—in stride. He was raised in St. Louis where his parents recognized his interest in the arts and  arranged for piano lessons. At age 14 he directed a 300-member gospel choir, and during the summers, danced at The Muny. He went on to graduate school in New York and moved to Harlem.  Before returning home to St. Louis for the opening of Amongst Friends, he directed a show for New York Fashion Week, further evidence of his many talents.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

At an artist’s talk on Saturday afternoon Calmese said he attends Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he was “blown away” by a striking woman who wore the most amazing clothes. When he was finally introduced, he told her he wanted to do a story on fashion for a graduate school class, and wondered if she would be interested in being the subject. Thus began a 5-year photography project with Ms. Lana Turner, above, resulting in Amongst Friends.

Here is a great description of the project from projects+gallery’s website:  “Amongst Friends. is a series of black and white photographs and selected fashion objects from the private collection of Lana Turner, a noted Harlem preservationist and doyenne of style whose extensive inventory of vintage fashion can be understood as an archive of twentieth-century society and a reflection of the role of fashion in the history of African-American culture.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

projects+ gallery’s Proprietor Susan Barrett, left, with Ms. Turner, far right.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Sir Jacob (Randal Jacobs) with Calmese’s sister, above. Jacobs was here from New York to style Ms. Turner’s garments for the exhibition.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Reuben Reuel, above, moved to St. Louis from Brooklyn when he was chosen for the Saint Louis Fashion Fund’s inaugural group of designers. He and Calmese had met in New York.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Ms. Turner’s clothing collection began with hats, she now has 500. Her choice of what she’ll wear each day “starts with a hat, and sometimes there are multiple changes in a day, depending on where I’m going.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Examples of some of Ms. Turner’s extensive clothing collection are shown above. Each piece is meticulously catalogued and kept in a spare bedroom of her Harlem apartment.

She was often photographed by the late Bill Cunningham for the fashion pages of the New York Times. “The clothes tell a story of people I’ve met and where I’ve been,” Turner said. When asked to describe how she furnishes her apartment, she added: “Life is too short not to be surrounded by beautiful things.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Calmese shot the black and white photographs on film using a vintage 6 x 6 camera, which he prefers over shooting digitally. “You never know exactly what you have until you get in the darkroom, and I like that surprise,” he said.  The photo above shows a detail of a larger photograph (see more of it in previous photo) showing Ms. Turner wearing an Yves Saint Laurent shoe.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

The photos for Amongst Friends were shot on the rooftop of the apartment building where Turner lives in Harlem. In this photo Calmese’s muse is wearing a Vera Wang gown, also shown on the mannequin, right. Calmese said that perhaps subconsciously, Harlem is woven into the photos.

The building’s roof is purposely visible in some of the shots, which the photographer explained by saying, “Ms. Turner and I are very much aware that this is all a performance. Aren’t we all part of the ‘theater of man?’ We’re all players in it, aren’t we—the heroes and the villains.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Washington University Sam Fox School of Design Susan Barrett Sir Jacob Rikki Byrd Reuben Reuel projects+gallery Mrs. Lana Turner Dario Calmese Bridget Melloy

Senior Director of projects+gallery Bridget Melloy (not pictured) introduced the panel at Saturday, February 17’s Artist’s Talk: W. U. Sam Fox School of Design Lecturer Rikki Byrd, left, Ms. Lana Turner, middle, and Dario Calmese, right.

Byrd commented that Ms. Turner seems to have mastered the art of being “she.” Turner replied: “I never wear makeup, I can’t be bothered fiddling with my hair, this is me.”

At the end of the discussion Calmese expressed his gratitude to Susan Barrett for bringing Amongst Friends to St. Louis. “It is so important to me that black and brown people, who may not know where to find other people interested in fashion, can come to a gallery in the Central West End and see themselves in the art. I want to continue documenting Black Americans leading extraordinary lives. And I hope it (Amongst Friends) brings people out,” he said.

In summary, the photography is stunning, the Muse is fascinating, and once again, projects+gallery has brought something totally unexpected and fascinating to St. Louis. Take the time to visit.

Amongst Friends. will remain on view until March 31.  projects+gallery, 4733 McPherson Ave., is open Weds. through Sat., 11 to 5, (314) 696-8678.

P. S. – I have paraphrased some of the conversations quoted here.

A visit to PINNED! A Designer Chess Challenge

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  World Chess Hall of Fame Women's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade Saint Louis Fashion Incubator Reuben Reuel Grandmaster Maurice Ashley Emily Brady Koplar Audra Noyes Allison Mitchell Agnes Hamerlik

If you are into fashion and haven’t as yet visited Pinned! A Designer Chess Challenge at the World Chess Hall of Fame, 4652 Maryland Ave., you’re in for a big treat.  The exhibition opened on October 6 (when these photographs were taken) and closes March 25.

The $10,000 design challenge was created in partnership with the Saint Louis Fashion Fund, located at 1533 Washington Ave.  The challenge for each member of Saint Louis Fashion Incubator’s inaugural class—Agnes Hamerlik, Emily Brady Koplar, Allison Mitchell, Audra Noyes, Charles Smith II, and Reuben Reuel—who was paired with a Grandmaster from World Chess Hall of Fame, was to create an ensemble for today’s chess player. It had never occurred to me that dress codes for professional chess players were a topic of conversation, until I read Macauley Peterson’s article in Chess News.

Each class member’s work is shown on the 2nd floor of the World Chess Hall of Fame. The winner of a $10,000 prize was Audra Noyes, who was paired with Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, for the gorgeous dress shown in the photo above. More of Noyes’ designs are shown in the photo below.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  World Chess Hall of Fame Women's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade Saint Louis Fashion Incubator Reuben Reuel Grandmaster Maurice Ashley Emily Brady Koplar Audra Noyes Allison Mitchell Agnes Hamerlik

For the challenge, each designer was asked to complete 2 designs, one for a chess player and the other more avant-garde.

Audra Noyes exceedingly charming illustrations and poetry are shown above.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  World Chess Hall of Fame Women's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade Saint Louis Fashion Incubator Reuben Reuel Grandmaster Maurice Ashley Emily Brady Koplar Audra Noyes Allison Mitchell Agnes Hamerlik

Seeing what St. Louisan Emily Brady Koplar created, above, it’s not surprising that she won the People’s Choice Award. She was paired with Women’s Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade. Learn more about the designer on a blog post here, and about her successful career on the Fashion Incubator’s website.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  World Chess Hall of Fame Women's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade Saint Louis Fashion Incubator Reuben Reuel Grandmaster Maurice Ashley Emily Brady Koplar Audra Noyes Allison Mitchell Agnes Hamerlik

Brooklyn native Reuben Reuel designed the imaginative fashions shown above. Read more about Reuel on the Incubator’s website here. (A couple of neighborhood friends have been spotted looking absolutely smashing while wearing Reuel’s custom-made dresses made of his signature African cloth, example far right).

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  World Chess Hall of Fame Women's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade Saint Louis Fashion Incubator Reuben Reuel Grandmaster Maurice Ashley Emily Brady Koplar Audra Noyes Allison Mitchell Agnes Hamerlik

Allison Mitchell, a Dallas native, was working in digital marketing when she made her first handbag that everyone wanted. Her success led her to St. Louis to further her career while participating in the Fashion Incubator. You’ll enjoy her story here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Shop News  World Chess Hall of Fame Women's Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade Saint Louis Fashion Incubator Reuben Reuel Grandmaster Maurice Ashley Emily Brady Koplar Audra Noyes Allison Mitchell Agnes Hamerlik

Chicago-native Agnes Hamerlik, whose dramatic creation is shown above, was paired with Grandmaster Alejandro Ramerez. Hamerlik followed a more traditional couture path, which you can read about on the website.

The video takes you behind-the-scenes as the designers describe their creations for the PINNED! challenge, followed by the moment when the judges’ winner was announced.

World Chess Hall of Fame, 4652 Maryland Ave., suggested donation $3 per person, $5 per family.  Mon.-Tues. 10 to 5, Weds.-Fri. 10 to 9, Sat. 10 to 5, Sun. 12 to 5.

Saint Louis Fashion Incubator, 1533 Washington Ave., is open to the public Saturday, February 7, from 10 to 4 for a day of shopping the designers’ collections.