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. I like to make essential things out of forest materials I found under towering free trees, it was always fragrantly fresh. Until after dark sometimes, we explored along paths at the lake’s edge, traveling to other houses through blackberry bushes and under cedar boughs. I don't think of these things although 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, When I work in the studio I am interested in the material’s inherent qualities and pay attention to tensional encounters between forms as they are in any given moment- how something is left lying or brought into proximity with other shapes. Ongoing installation work, 227 Life Preservers, Stacked and STUMP are inventive arrangements of objects- multiples accumulating into new form, using what is at hand.

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 begin as gathered, modified wooden elements and later cast in bronze.

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

I produce prints on and off the press approaching printmaking an inventive process which brings unpredictable depth into flat space by merging shapes 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 and each layer brings a welcome departure from my initial intention. As with printmaking, the work I make resolves itself somewhere between my intention and lack of it. This "somewhere" is a place 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,  March 2018