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Ellis Marksohn (BFA 2014) is a senior in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Originally from New York, his interest in photography stems from the potential for the camera as a tool for therapeutic growth. His series Burn Down Something Pretty blends a variety of imagery, from fabricated moments of intimacy with his parents to decontextualized objects of significance. It is an attempt at accepting the past while questioning self-hood.

Marksohn’s series presents a rich and complex reflection upon a troubled adolescence, combining portraits of or with his parents, scanned artifacts, and celestial phenomena indicating the passing of time. Created in the period after Marksohn’s own successful completion of a youth rehabilitation program, the images emanate a kind of tense tranquility; a time of catharsis and healing while acknowledging a difficult past. Burn Down Something Pretty speaks of a desire for intimacy with one’s family, of the healing power of love and acceptance, yet in its creation serves a therapeutic function for its maker. Integral to the work is Marksohn’s artist statement:

“Maybe 30 seconds, maybe a minute. I’ve never been good at those sorts of calculations. I know we’ll all complain about the absence of light until one day in spring when there is a sudden recognition of what we have gained.

Home is the safest place.

After graduating from high school, I moved out of my parent’s house and converted my apartment into a punk venue. I had a sweet tooth for chaos and longed for rock bottom. Eventually there were too many holes in the drywall that I never learned how to spackle shut, so I moved back home.

As best as I can remember this is how it happened. A hockey puck struck my father’s forehead. I know I threw it, but all I remember is screaming “Leave and never come back.” My mom was in my bedroom, crying for me to stay. I got in my car and started driving, but realized there was nowhere to go. Turning the car around, I sped back down my gravel driveway. I imagined driving straight through the wall and into the kitchen. I imagined a glorious Don Quixote cry for help, but the wall stood still while the car buckled against it.

A week later I arrived at a wilderness rehabilitation program in the middle of the Utah winter. It is all a learning process. I needed to burn down something pretty before I could talk to you. Even still, sometimes I wake up in the morning and forget to shave my beard for months.”

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All images © Ellis Marksohn

This post was contributed by photographer Acacia Johnson and her student photo blog, Onward Forward.

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