Artist Statement

I grew up outside of Seattle on a point of land surrounded by immense Lake Washington,which was deep and cold even in summer. The lake and surrounding forest created an ingrained sense of place in our lives. It rained constantly and when it stopped I was most happy being outside in my imaginative life. As a kid I liked to make things with forest materials found under the towering fir trees along the lake. Until after dark, we explored on paths traveling to each other’s houses along blackberry thickets and under sweeping cedar boughs. I am inseparable from these places that imprinted firmly on my early imagination.

Lopez Island, in the San Juan archipelago of northwest Washington has been my home for thirty years and remains a place of tranquility and restoration. Like my childhood home, this place has also shaped what I make and how I make it.

Geographically, Lopez Island is a bounded, rocky landscape with a meandering edge shaped by glaciation and tidal force. It is a unique terrain dominated by tall fir trees and a place where the sky rolls every kind of weather off the Pacific Ocean and passes right over our roof.

In the studio I am motivated by my own innate bearings, When I work I am interested in the material’s inherent qualities and pay attention to tensional encounters between various materials as they are in any given moment. My attention is pulled by how something is left lying or brought into proximity with other objects and shapes. Ongoing installation work, 227 Life Preservers, Stacked and STUMP are inventive arrangements of objects- multiples accumulating into new form. I use what I have at hand in the studio that has been collected over time.

Recent bronze work, Nurse Log, Device to Measure What’s Left, Black Marker and Marker at the Old Path and Joe’s Slice began as collected and assembled wooden elements and later cast in bronze. These forms are objects of metaphoric utility, marking, measuring and connecting, Device to Measure What’s Left is the device to measure with and at the same time the thing being measured.

Made in a series titled "Fete du Cellules", multiples of cast glass “rounds” invite both a playful and serious perspective as un-scientific imaginations of invented microscopic histories. The qualities of the clear glass castings can suggest blobby jellyfish or frozen puddles beginning to thaw revealing intricate content imbedded inside.

I draw with graphite on paper and produce prints on and off a large Ettan press. My approach to printmaking is an inventive process and the press brings unpredictable depth into flat space by merging shape and mark making into composite layers under 6,000 pounds of pressure. Always the press itself has something to say in the process of printing. Each additional layer brings a welcome departure from my initial intention.

I think the work I make resolves itself somewhere between my intention and lack of it. When this resolution is not possible to predict, I can place things in some kind of alignment where an authentic work may happen. 


Jean Behnke   March, 2019