Artist Liz Dexheimer brings what lies beneath to Behnke Doherty Gallery

"Dance Party VI" by Liz Dexheimer. —Liz Dexheimer

The theme of reflection — in more than one sense of the word — is what artist Liz Dexheimer captures so well in her paintings and monotype prints. There’s something very meditative about gazing into one of her tranquil pond scenes; more and more reveals itself as one contemplates the image.

“There are many layers,” says David Behnke, co-owner of the Behnke Doherty Gallery, which is currently hosting a show of Ms. Dexheimer’s monotypes. “It’s like looking at the surface of a pond where you can barely see what’s below. The images are both abstract and ephemeral, but your mind keeps bringing you back to reality. Because she works in layers, you begin seeing things deeper and deeper. Your focus shifts.”

The Behnke Doherty Gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven will host a solo show of Ms. Dexheimer’s monotypes throughout August. Gallery co-owners David Behnke and Paul Doherty have been representing Ms. Dexheimer’s work for many years, beginning when the two former New Yorkers had a gallery in Washington, Conn., the artist’s hometown. Ms. Dexheimer is one of the artists whom Mr. Behnke and Mr. Doherty brought along when they opened their Vineyard Haven gallery last year.

“What initially attracted me to Liz was the subtlety of her work,” says Mr. Behnke. Although she creates both paintings and prints, the work currently featured at the Behnke Doherty Gallery are monotypes — a type of printmaking that involves painting on a surface such as glass and then transferring the image to paper using a special type of press. Ms. Dexheimer builds up her images by repeating the process multiple times. Adding layers to her work provides depth.

The monotype medium serves the artist’s vision well. In her artist’s statement, Ms. Dexheimer writes, “My process involves layering forms, textures, and patterns to hint at something vaguely discernible, distilled to its most basic elements. I think of each layer as a complete thought; dropped on each other the layers create a fuller story. It is a reaction to the play between light and dark, motion and stillness, the layers of visual information, surface elements and what lies beneath.”

In a recent interview, the artist explained, “When I’m printing, each layer that I put on has its own story, its own version of looking at a water scene. It’s what you would see if you were slicing it — one story on top of another. The medium and the way I work with it allow me to incorporate the process and results in a way that is meaningful.”

While some of the monotype images in the show clearly reference water scenes with lily pads, vines, shadows, and reflections, others are more abstract and composed of vibrant colors. “She has a great color sense over a wide spectrum of colors,” notes Mr. Behnke. “She uses very muted shades and then bright blues and reds. She has never limited herself to one color scheme.”

In a brochure for a previous show of Ms. Dexheimer’s work, Mr. Behnke, who observes that the artist’s work has “a distinctly Asian sensibility,” writes, “In the end, it is the artist’s curiosity about nature and what lies beneath that one most remembers. Always elegantly pure, her works achieve their simplicity through a deft interplay of line and color, form and atmosphere, specificity and illusion. She teasingly tempts the viewer to try and bring her work into clear focus, but in the end leaves him content with the gentle grace of ambiguity.”

Ms. Dexheimer’s paintings and monotypes are a perfect fit for the gallery. Much of the other work exhibited is abstract, and the overall tone of many of the works is one of quiet, introspective meditation. One section is devoted to Asian art, and another to Mr. Doherty’s photos, a series of images capturing reflections on the ocean surface that resemble abstract paintings.

One of the artists who have proven to be very popular this year is ceramicist Anne Mallory, whose vessels have a distinctly Asian feel, but are unique in their shapes and glazes. Mr. Behnke notes that the collection has all but sold out, but he will be getting more of Ms. Mallory’s work soon.


The Behnke Doherty Gallery is at 53 Main St. in Vineyard Haven. Liz Dexheimer’s monotypes will be exhibited through the end of August.