Artist Statement

I grew up outside of Seattle on a point of land surrounded by a deep cold lake. It rained constantly. I was completely happy outside in my imaginative life. As a kid I liked to make things out of forest materials I found under the towering fir trees. Until after dark, we explored on paths along Immense Lake Washington, traveling to each other’s houses past armored blackberry thickets and under cedar boughs. I am inseparable from these places that imprinted firmly on my early imagination.

Lopez Island, in the San Juan archipelago, has been my home for nearly 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 also dominated by very tall fir trees and a place where the sky rolls everything off the Pacific Ocean right over our roof.

Mostly I am motivated by my own innate bearings, When I work in the studio 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. I am engaged by how something is left lying or brought into proximity with other things and shapes. Ongoing installation work, 227 Life Preservers, Stacked and STUMP are inventive arrangements of objects- multiples accumulating into new form, using what has been collected and is at hand.

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

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

I draw with graphite and produce prints on and off a large Ettan press. My approach to printmaking is an inventive process. I am excited that the press brings unpredictable depth into flat space by merging shape and markmaking 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. Not possible to predict, I can place things in some kind of alignment where an authentic work may happen. 


Jean Behnke   February, 2019