Tuesday, November 24, 2015

June Wayne: Pushing Boundaries, Bending Definitions

June Wayne
Photo: Niku Kashef
An artist and art historian, I had heard of, but was not really familiar with June Wayne's life or her artwork. Considering her body of work and renown it seems impossible to have missed that enormous talent and contribution to the world of art throughout the twentieth century but...I did. Wayne was a true Renaissance "Woman." She was a print-maker, painter, tapestry creator, author, filmmaker, educational TV star, lecturer, administrator, feminist thinker and activist-whew! 

Born in Chicago in 1918, as June Claire Kline, she quit high school at 15 years old to become an artist and had her first solo show-a series of abstract pointillist paintings-in the city at the Boulevard Gallery in 1935. On the strength of that show, she was invited to Mexico City by the Department of Education to create and install an exhibition in the Ministry of Public Administration alongside the works of Diego Rivera at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. 

June Wayne
Waiting for Newspapers
ca 1936
Oil on canvas
Wayne returned to Chicago in 1935 to work with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as an easel project artist and continued to paint in the Social Realist style. By 1939, she landed in New York, where she would continue to paint while supporting herself making jewelry, as an industrial designer creating buttons and notions in the garment district, and as a production illustrator and staff writer for radio, bouncing between New York and Los Angeles.

June Wayne
Cryptic Creatures
Kafka Series
ca 1948
Oil on Canvas
36 x 30 inches
With the United States entry into World War II, Wayne moved to Los Angeles with the intention of working in the aircraft industry. She took classes in production illustration run by CalTech and Art Center but returned to Chicago to work for radio station WGN. 

As I explored opportunities for women during the early years of the twentieth century in my doctoral thesis, Wayne's experiences seemed to further prove it was difficult for female artists to work independently and to exhibit their work. She recalled in an interview with Betty Hoag, "...in those days one of the reasons it was easy to get on the project is that government really didn't take seriously that any art was going to come out of it. It was "made" work in which categories of people got jobs, but nobody really took the job seriously."

Despite the limitations of the era, Wayne painted and explored, refining her technique in lithography, the process of printing from a plane surface (as a smooth stone or metal plate) on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area ink-repellent.

After the war, in 1945, Wayne settled permanently in Los Angeles. She incorporated techniques she learned at CalTech and developed a body of work that anticipated POP and OP art incorporating invented images suggesting nuclear fission and the atom bomb. Wayne produced a series of lithographs -- the Kafka Series and the Justice Series. She was ready to embark on the next body of work, a collection based on the poems of John Donne. Erotic in nature, her California printer balked and, frustrated, Wayne looked to other options. En route to Paris to work with the renowned printer Marcel Durassier, at a layover in New York she met Mac Lowry of the Ford Foundation. Irked by the lack of creative collaborative support available to artists in the States, Wayne asserted her feelings. Intrigued, Lowry asked her to keep in touch. "I remember saying to him: No wonder Picasso was so prolific. Anything he wanted to do, there was an army of craftsmen to fabricate it or him.They had a tradition of collaborative practices. We don't have that here."

June Wayne
The Final Jury
Justice Series
ca 1954
June Wayne Collection, Louis Stern Fine Arts

During the 1950s, Wayne exhibited in major shows at museums in Southern California including and in San Francisco at the De Young Museum of Art, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. She also showed her work at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Philadelphia Art Alliance. She set out to revive the art of lithography and created a plan of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, a place where a pool of master printers would be trained and collaboration of artists would be encouraged. Under her direct supervision and administration, over 300 printers were trained and virtually all the major print workshops in America today trace their roots back to Tamarind.
June Wayne
Grande Vague Noire (Black Tidal Wave)
ca 1973
Woven at Atelier de Saint Cyr
Her tapestry era began with travel to France to work with master weavers in translating her pieces into tapestries. She felt the weaving with its rhythmical, slow, technique created an appropriate way by which she could transmit to the viewer a sense of time passing that is integral to the process. 

June Wayne
Delegate Dorothy from The Dorothy Series
 ca 1977
Color lithograph printed by Edward Hamilton.
In the late 70s Wayne created The Dorothy Series, a traveling exhibition of 20 lithographs, accompanied by a video presentation that appeared in museums across the country. The combination of ephemeral-sequential imagery of narrative in collage from letters, documents, newspaper clippings, and old photographs that narrated the life of her mother, a traveling corset saleswoman. 

Wayne was also involved in the feminist art movement in Los Angeles in the 70s.  Her biggest contribution to the movement was in education, as Wayne taught a series of professionalization seminars entitled "Joan of Art" to young women artists beginning around 1971. Wayne's seminars covered various topics related to being a professional artist, such as pricing work and approaching galleries, and involved role-playing and discussion sessions. They also encouraged giving back to the feminist community since graduates of Wayne's seminars were required to then teach the seminars to other women. Wayne, along with fellow artists Shelia Levrant de Bretteville, and Ruth Weisberg founded the Los Angeles Council of Women in the Arts which sought the equal representation of women artists in museum exhibitions. In addition, Wayne was also part of the selection committee for the exhibition Contemporary Issues: Works on Paper by Women, which opened at the Los Angeles Woman's Building in 1977, featuring the works of over 200 women artists.

"Wayne's uniqueness lies precisely in her departures," then-Times art critic William Wilson wrote in 1998. "She offers a fruitful alternative model for the artist. Never allowing a signature style to imprison her, like a creative scientist she investigates her ideals and passions even when they lead her out of the studio. She does more than make superior art in Los Angeles. She helped mold its larger culture."
June Wayne
Tenth Wave
ca 1972
June Wayne Collection, Louis Stern Fine Arts
Wayne never reached the prominence as an artist some said she deserved. Experts offered several reasons for her limited recognition. "She has not fallen into any of the art movements that have had such publicity," Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Victor Carlson said when a retrospective of Wayne's work opened in L.A. in 1998. He mentioned Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. "None of those brackets explain her," he said. "I think that a lot of critics have not known what to make of her."
June Wayne
Cognito Series
ca 1984
Acrylic and silver leaf on paper marouflaged onto canvas
with gesso and gelatin
72 x 54 inches
Wayne's art has been exhibited all over the world and is part of several museum collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Norton Simon Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Rhode Island School of Design, Moore College of Art and Design, California College of Arts and Crafts, and The Atlanta College of Fine Arts.

In 2002, Wayne became a research professor at the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper. Wayne also donated a group of over 3,300 prints, both her work and the work of other artists, to the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, which established the June Wayne Study Center and Archives to house the collection.

Wayne passed away at her Tamarind Avenue studio in Hollywood, CA on August 23, 2011 with her daughter and granddaughter by her side.
HYPERALLERGIC, Alicia Eler, June Wayne's Farewell, June 23, 2014, http://hyperallergic.com/129722/june-waynes-farewell/, retrieved November 24, 2015
The Creative Cosmos of June Wayne, Lynell George, KCET, Artbound, http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/june-wayne-pasadena-museum-of-california-art.html, retrieved November 24, 2015.
Yesterday and Tomorrow: California Women Artists, Sylvia Moore, ed., Midmarch Arts Books, New York, 1989, p. 15-159.
The New York Times, June Wayne, Painter and Printmaker dies at 93, William Grimes, August 22, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/arts/june-wayne-painter-and-printmaker-dies-at-93.html?_r=0
The Los Angeles Times, June Wayne dies at 93; led revival of fine-art print making, Mary Rourke, August 25, 2011,
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/25/local/la-me-june-wayne-20110825, retrieved November 24, 2015.
The June Wayne Collection, http://www.junewayne.com/about.php, retrieved November 24, 2015.

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