Artist Statement

Recent paintings and drawings:
My art and practice come out of a pursuit to create and employ a language of visual poetics in which to examine relationships. This language relies on strategies of fiction, mimicry, the recontextualizing of subject matter, formalism, and a tactile engagement with material. I feel that in our visually saturated world, images can stall, it is as if they carry too much history, meaning and/or information, and are cancelled out by their overabundance. So, through the use of formal devices, appropriation and a (re)ordering of these elements, I search for a language that can impact and speak with a new coherency.
Painting is an accurate place to locate a description of my work in its physical sense. In regards to the content of my work, a more pluralistic concern exists. This pluralism is made up of ideas in exploring spaces that are at once familiar and not, images that prompt a recollection then redirect to ambiguity, the physical and nonmaterial are all areas of interests for me. A conversation between the digitally conjured and the direct authenticity of painted marks often exists in the works. I find these dualities are analogous to how life works and serve as useful structures for exploration.
– Behle, 2019

Michael Behle’s images wish they could talk to each other, even sleep together. The reality of painting, here, lies in its inner failure. The polyphony of medias makes us think that the purpose precisely is in the misunderstanding. The digital image finally sleeps with the painting, and the sense of grotesque and poetry eventually resolves the enigma.
– Hélène Baril, artist/writer, 2019 (Temporary Art Review)

Laumeier Project and related thoughts:

I’m very interested in the human experience—it offers up a tremendous field on which an unending cultivation of ideas can be explored. More specifically, my work has focused in a large part on the idea of cycle and the give and take of information, a kind of communicative exchange. This may be found in the form of individuals conversing, a group ingesting information provided on a mass scale by their establishment or something more isolated, intimate, such as the struggles an individual might endure within himself or herself. I see these situations as two parts—a kind of cause and effect. Often times the contrast is staggering. The impact we have on one another and our surroundings, these exchanges of actions, words and effects are everything. How is it we might operate in a most poignant and affirmative manner yet simultaneously create a deficit from which the lot is touched in the most negative way? How are ideas and actions exchanged, understood and mistaken, and what does that look like? I watch. I wonder. I invest emotionally and intellectually and complete the process as some sort of critic/maker of self and environment—a contributor of visuals, objects and experiences. The purpose is in the misunderstanding. I believe that in the understood lies stagnation, and in order to continue in a progressive manner we must challenge ourselves with what might not be understood. For the Kranzberg Series at Laumeier Sculpture Park, I have decided to create an installation piece. I have employed sound in the sculpture/installation Disintegration; it is the logical solution for the concept in the piece. The speakers provide the conduit between the subject (artist) and his/her audience. The collection and layering of feedback eventually becomes a bother of undecipherable noise. In response, the subject purges forth a mass of color and beauty. This in itself will also break down and become a vapid ghost—a sort of lament on the permanence of external forces and their vitality as we the individuals fade. It is a cycle of our cancellation.
– Behle, 2009

“Thus the breakdown of a previously established order provides the armature for rearranging its components; and from that process the shape of a provisional new order emerges.”
– Robert Storr, from the essay Disparities and Deformations our Grotesque 2004

I see the deformed/grotesque quality in the paintings as a point of reference. As in traditional portraiture, there is a figure captured for our contemplation. Information is offered, but in these works the information gets mixed and convoluted. We gain a sort of assurance in thinking that there is that grotesque out there and we are not a part of it (a sort of better him than me attitude). But, upon further contemplation on the subject, the question arises, “What, if anything, sets us apart?” How quickly could we become that form of disparity?
The other day on a talk show I learned that almost seventy percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck—a moment away from being homeless, grotesque in some minds. It could be in the form of bad information, missed information or unfortunate inventions that one begins to change in others perception. The paintings (MikeLaura, April 29th and December 19th, 1972) are combines of different individuals, different information is brought by each image and each subject represents something particular to those who know them. They have a certain origin that they share, a connecting point, like a birth-date, a city in which they are from or, in the case of MikeLaura, a union recognized by our society as marriage. So in this sense there is a connection to them all. However, once they begin to combine they speak of something very different than similarities.
Now we are given an unexpected, maybe difficult image to ponder. In the paintings April 29th and December 19th, 1972 there is a nod to celebrity and pop culture and the injection of it into the average… I selected certain individuals to comment on the Americana-ness of it all—football players, actors from sitcoms of the 70’s. It is a vast spectrum, but it’s us, and these images might speak to what we look like more than we wish to accept.
– Behle, 2006

Portrait Drawings:
The graphite/inkjet portion of the drawings presents a type of realism, yet it’s a generic realism as all are rendered in the same fashion. There are expressions that differ but come from that same black and white place. The images in gouache/acrylic speak of a detachment from that reality. The iconography of pink elephants, animated bullets, eyes and flowers etc… are like pictures from the mind. They function as thoughts we may entertain in our conscious state, alone or with others and possibly as a fantastical inventory of images taken from the subconscious mind that we dare not entertain.
I like to think about the drawings as explorations of portraiture in the physical as well as the psychological sense. That is, in terms of the physical, the drawings take a direction from the sitter from issues of clothing, skin tone, hair style and facial features. Then in the psychological aspect there is a type of emotion suggested through the sitter’s expression. This expression, though static, is often the result of the imagery to which they are juxtaposed. This opens the possibility to explore questions of how we react to situations. What do we really think about the issues in our lives, the issues in the world? Why might we guard those truths, and what does that look like?
– Behle, 2004