Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1946, Behnke began her higher education at Southern Connecticut State College (Southern Connecticut State University), before transferring after a single year to the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn New York. There she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 1969. She received her Master of Arts degree from New York University in 1976 and, three years later, she joined the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York where she has continued to teach until the present.
Behnke began working in watercolor and later adopted oil as her primary medium. With interest in the dialogue created by a combination of images, rather than their individual significance, her compositions usually consist of multiple, unified images. Early in her painting career Behnke focused on theories of image perception and the alteration of visual perception based on a single element, such as color. An example of her work during that period is a watercolor from 1978 entitled, Three Spectral Pairs, in which she explored functional aspects through the gradual spectrum of color. During the 1990s, she focused her work more on the basis of expressing scientific concepts, such as natural selection, which she used for the subject of Wallace’s Heresy in 1990.
Residing and working in New York, she remains active in production
and exhibition of her artwork. Additional exhibitions of Behnke’s
work have been held at institutions including the Springfield
Art Museum in Missouri; a downtown branch of the Whitney Museum
of American Art in New York; San Francisco Museum in California;
and the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas.