June Wayne: Champion of Lithography
A highschool dropout who dreamt of being an artist, June Wayne left a lasting impact on the tradition of printmaking in America. While her name might not have the impact that some other American women artists of the 20th century have, she is remembered for her contributions to the study of lithography and her role in helping women artists gain presence in America.
Born in 1918 in Chicago, she dropped out of school at 15 to become an artist. With no formal training she managed to land her first gallery show when she was 17 in 1935. She found work as a professional artist in the WPA program and then during World War II she converted aircraft blueprints to drawings.
Her lasting effect, however, came when she learned lithography in 1948. At the time in the United States lithography was seen as a lesser medium -- used for posters, not fine art. That was not the case, however, in Europe. After traveling to Paris multiple times to work with best collaborators, she grew frustrated with having to travel around the world and decided to found the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. She set the workshop up as a non-profit and received a grant from the Ford Foundation. Artists would hold residencies for a set amount of time and work with master printmakers. The residents included artists that would define 20th century American art such as: Louise Nevelson, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha, Josef Albers and Philip Guston, among others. In 1970 the Tamarind Lithography Workshop became the Tamarind Institute and is now run by the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.
At its core the workshop was an educational institute that wanted to teach and promote the art of lithography and broadens its audience to that of America. And Wayne was at her core an educator. In the 1970s when the Feminist movement began she contributed by running workshops called “Joan of Art”. These classes taught women to navigate the professional art scene, and also gave them to opportunity to reach behind and lift someone up behind them. Each graduate was required to teach seminars to other women paying their experience forward.
Wayne was known for her fiercely independent personality and she never wanted to be categorized. She wanted to be seen through her work. While she set aside her own artistic output to promote Tamarind, she continued to create throughout her life. At Last A Thousand was created in 1965 to celebrate Tamarind’s production of one thousand lithographs, and is considered one of her best works. It depicts a crater-like shape similar to an atomic explosion; its four states illustrating the instantaneous stages of an atomic explosion. It also signals a shift in her work that lasts until the end of her life -- focusing on cosmic images.
Wayne’s work is included in the collection of numerous museums, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Norton Simon Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others.