March 2, 2008

June Wayne still acting out in Hollywood

In the LA Times, Suzanne Muchnic visits with 90-year-old artist/activist June Wayne. Rutgers University, which established the June Wayne Archive and Study Center in 2002 when Wayne donated a large collection of graphic works, recently published "June Wayne: The Art of Everything." The richly illustrated, 464-page book documents her work from 1936 to 2006. The Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris has a complete set of her prints. Individual works are in dozens of other public collections, and she has compiled a huge international résumé of exhibitions. She's still so full of energy and ideas that she says that getting old is a terrible handicap. "'Nobody makes business deals with someone my age. . . . A show is not less than a year away always, and sometimes three or four. If I want to take on a big project, people look at me and ask, 'Is she going to be around?' With a keen sense of justice and a compulsion to articulate her ideas, Wayne has been visibly and audibly 'around' for a long time. A champion of free speech and artists' rights -- and a thorn in the side of conservative politicians -- she joined an artists' union in 1938 and testified before a congressional committee on behalf of a failed effort to preserve Works Progress Administration art programs as permanent agencies. Fifty-two years later -- in 1990, when the National Endowment for the Arts was under attack for funding exhibitions deemed offensive by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and others -- she delivered the keynote address to the annual meeting of the College Art Assn., the nation's largest organization of visual arts professionals. The anti-censorship lecture, 'Obscenity Reconsidered,' brought thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Wayne's activism has often overshadowed her art. But she is still ensconced in the light-filled industrial building in Hollywood where she has lived and worked for decades."

Any artist who has been discouraged by their dealer from undertaking more experimental work will appreciate Wayne's tongue-in-cheek advice to young artists. "I've always had a problem with the fact that I don't have a signature image," Wayne told Muchnic. "If I have already addressed a problem, I move it along. That's a terrible mistake. When I advise young artists, I say to them, if you want to be successful, develop one thing and do it all the time. But you must teach it to a lot of other people who are not quite as good as you are. They go out and educate the masses to your image and you come along, having done it slightly better, and you make the money. The artist needs not only a signature image but a lot of imitators. And since I keep changing, I obviously have not taken my own advice." Read more.

“She is the doyenne of American printmaking. Her fame rests as much on her efforts to revitalize printmaking in the United States as it does on her dazzling lithographs...Ms. Wayne is an artist in search of the sublime.”– Benjamin Genocchio, New York Times

“Her prints, paintings, and tapestries address many of the great themes of our times…her art is a map of our era.” – Judith K. Brodsky, Rutgers University, from the preface to the new book

"Her work has been responsive to the evolving history of art during her long lifetime… it is difficult to think of a parallel achievement in terms of its breadth, humanity, ambition, and sweep.” – Arthur C. Danto, Columbia University, from the introduction to the book

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