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 making essential things under sweeping cedar boughs and pitchy fir branches where it was always fragrant in the forest. Many summer days until after dark, we explored along paths at the lake’s edge, traveling to other houses through blackberry bushes under towering fir trees. I am inseparable from these places that imprinted 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- it also shapes what I make and how I make it. Lopez Island is a bounded, rocky landscape with a meandering edge shaped by glaciation and tidal force- a unique terrain dominated by tall fir trees- a place where every thing is constantly moving.

Mostly I am motivated by my own innate bearings, inspired by simply messing around in the studio with spatial arrangement and diverse materials. When I work in the studio I am interested in the material’s inherent qualities and some times pay attention to tensional encounters between things as they are in any given moment- how something is left lying or brought into proximity with other things without intention. Ongoing installation work, 227 Life Preservers, Stacked and STUMP are inventive arrangements of objects- multiples accumulating into new form, using what is at hand.

I think many things I make are objects of marking or measuring, where the thing being measured becomes the device to measure with. Recent bronze work, Dialogue with a Nurse Log, Device to Measure What’s Left, Black Marker and Marker at the old Path use modified gathered wooden objects and cast in bronze. I produce prints on and off the press. Printmaking can be an inventive process, bringing unpredictable depth into flat space, merging shapes and mark making into composite layers under 6,000 pounds of pressure. Fortunately the press itself has something to say in the process of printing and each layer brings a departure from initial intention. Somewhere between intention and lack of it, an authentic art can reveal itself- although this is not possible to predict, I can place things in some kind of alignment where it might happen. 


Jean Behnke,  November 2017