Each work by John Behnke (b.1991) tells a complex story that combines a romantic attitude toward the natural world with dystopian visions of the near future. So much of his work is based on tangible places, that are then altered in his memory of them or what he dreams they may be below the surface. He presents a kind of unfolding from the surface to the surreal and transforms them into a hyper-state of presence. Despite his use of bright fluorescents, the works maintain an eerie manner or tone. He describes his palette as “paranormal colors” and presents most as being at the time of dusk.
In the past his larger works were done on canvas with layer upon layer of acrylic paint. The newer mixed media pieces proclaim a want to experiment and perfect his vision. Behnke states “A thousand ideas inform my work. If I paint something, they can understand my vision, rather than my words.” He also says, “My paintings are a dream or a playground where anyone can walk in. And then they can make their own story out of it.”
John’s goal is to go back to his works of the distant past and revamp them with a new sense of confidence. He feels he is now able to execute his vision the way he originally intended based on years of experience refining his own unique aesthetic and technique.
Behnke works at his home studio in Oriole Park, in Chicago, as well as Project Onward. He also works as a Fleet Service Clerk for American Airlines at O’Hare airport. He is also an avid bird lover, and dotes on his pet Caique parrot named Harpo. Behnke joined Project Onward in 2011.