The historic Old Gadsden Funeral Home is not the most obvious place to hold an art show. But in Cyle Suesz’ case, it is singularly perfect: Not only does his collection, Burial, heavily feature skeletons, but it’s also his final show in Charleston before he packs up and moves to New York.
Suesz, an Art Institute senior who graduates in March, works in both fashion and conceptual portraiture, and his art is characterized by an intriguing mix of dreaminess and crisp clarity — soft light on sharp stilettos, if you will — that the most interesting fashion photography offers. He’s photographed for Charleston Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, and several magazines, and he already has interviews lined up with some of New York’s top modeling agencies. It’s not hard to imagine Suesz becoming one of the Art Institute’s most prized alumni success stories.
Born and raised in Sumter, S.C., Suesz came to photography through the back door. “I wanted to be an actor for a while, in high school, and I didn’t trust anyone to take my head shot. So I took my own.” He started taking pictures of friends, influenced by the fashion shots he saw in magazines like Elle. Judging from one of his first attempts at an editorial series, his appreciation of the marginal, the shocking, and the dark haven’t changed all that much, though his style has certainly grown. “My first series was a housewife series, this lady killing her husband,” he says. “They’re the most embarrassing pictures I’ve ever seen! It was like homicide photography. It’s really funny, now that I think about it.”
The work that Suesz is showing at The Liquidation, Gris Galerie’s first pop-up art show, features skeletons rather than dead bodies and is centered on a considerably subtler theme. “When you date someone for a long time and you break up, you know, you’ve circled your life around this person. Once they’re gone, you have to get used to doing things alone. You have these skeletons you’re carrying around with you,” he says. Photos in the series show people posed with those skeletons, doing things that one does with a significant other: taking a bath, lying in bed, having a picnic. The photos are eerie and intimate and imply a kind of nightmarish loneliness.
In addition to Burial, Suesz is showing other works from his personal projects at the Art Institute. Some will be installations, “like you’re actually at the shoot,” he says. Visitors can look forward to some creepy touches, including a photobooth in the old embalming room. And if you don’t have someone to accompany you, never fear: The skeleton Suesz uses on his shoots will be in attendance as well. He’s pretty good at keeping people company.