June Wayne was a prolific painter, lithographer, and tapestry maker, who used science, social issues, and personal history as her themes. Her unusual taste in subject matter led to paintings, lithographs, and tapestries about DNA structure, atomic fission, and organic chemistry.
Wayne moved to Los Angeles in 1940. In the late 1940s she began making lithographs at Lynton Kistler’s studio. A decade later she went to Paris to work on an illustrated book with master printer Marcel Durassier. Upon her return, she was ready to revive the art of lithography.
Because of a Ford Foundation grant, Wayne was able to open her Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1960. The Tamarind was instrumental in the Los Angeles-based renaissance of printmaking in the 1960s and 1970s. Now printmaking was embraced as a contemporary art form. She directed Tamarind until 1970 when she transferred it to the University of New Mexico.
Her 1965 lithograph “At Last a Thousand” was inspired by lemmings known for their mass migrations where thousands of them drown. Wayne’s lithograph shows them in chaos, falling off ledges into an abyss. The aerial perspective recalls satellite images of disaster areas. Her “The Dorothy Series” was a tribute to her mother depicted in 20 lithographs from the 1970s. She collaged together images from old photos, a report card, marriage and divorce documents to make a biography of her mother.
In 1971, Wayne decided to make tapestries. She traveled to Paris to work with the Gobelins factory to learn this craft. This resulted in her large wall-hangings – the most impressive of her art works. Her “La Journee des Lemmings” again features the plight of the lemmings. This tapestry is more than 10 feet wide and is a textured abstraction in woven wool whose black and white palette has the look of newsprint. It shows tiny naked figures swarming across a dark band, evoking not just the death of the lemmings but the social turmoil of the times: the horrors in Vietnam, the bombing of Cambodia, and the slaughter of students at Kent State.
Her work has been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.