Jean Behnke

I live on Lopez Island in northwest Washington, a place of tranquility and restoration. Lopez Island is a bounded, rocky landscape with a meandering edge, shaped by glaciation and tidal force. The island has also shaped what I make and how I make it. In the studio I am motivated by my own innate bearings and the inherent qualities of materials. I pay attention to tensional encounters between things as they are and find how they might interact. Recent bronze work begins as collected wood elements that are later cast and assembled. 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 thousands of pounds of pressure. Borrowing a remark from Master Printer Elizabeth Tapper, “The press itself always has something to say last...”. I would add the process of printing each additional layer on paper brings a welcome departure from my initial intention. Whether object making or printmaking, what I make in the studio seems to resolve itself some place between my intention and lack of it. This resolution is not possible to predict so I can place things in some kind of alignment where an authentic work may happen.

Jean was raised in Seattle and for many formative years lived in Idaho working at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts thriving on exposure to visiting artists and scholars. In 1984 Jean created her first permanently sited outdoor sculptural work on the Sun Valley Center campus. Jean graduated from Cornish College in Seattle and later she received an MFA in sculpture from the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 1987 Jean began teaching at San Antonio College. Jean has exhibited for over 45 years and has reviews in Art in America and Artweek. Solo exhibitions include San Antonio College, the Art Gym, Women & Their Work, Cygnus Gallery, Anchor, Shoreline College, Perry and Carlson Gallery, Smith and Vallee Gallery and Gail Severn Gallery. Among others, her work has been included in exhibitions at CoCA, Tacoma Museum of Art, Hunt Gallery, Whatcom Museum, Anchor, Skagit Valley College, Lower Columbia College and WSU Tri-Cities. In 2009, Jean founded Anchor Art Space, a well-respected exhibition space offering compelling shows and programs attracting a broad audience from the Northwest and beyond. Behnke served on Boards at Cornish, 911 Media Arts, Anchor Art Space, La Conner Arts Commission and served as a regional speaker for Artist Trust. In 2019 Behnke curated and exhibited in a three-person exhibition “From Rocky Outcroppings: Peter de Lory, Michael Peterson and Jean Behnke” at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art. Behnke published an exhibition catalog for this exhibit. Jean lives on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands, teaches at the Museum of Northwest Art and is represented by Smith and Vallee Gallery in Edison, Washington.