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June Wayne dies at 93; led revival of fine-art print making

June Wayne founded the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in the 1960s, where leading artists collaborated with professional printers to create high-quality prints. She was also a prolific artist in her own right.

August 25, 2011|By Mary Rourke, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Wayne's independent streak, so apparent in her art, made her a role model for several generations of female artists. While the feminist movement of the 1970s expanded, she launched workshops to teach women how to navigate the power structures of the art world, then dominated by men. But she never saw herself as part of any group.

"Some of my problems over the years stemmed from an inability to think of myself as any kind of minority, woman, Jew, artist, whatever," she later wrote.

Born June Claire in Chicago on March 7, 1918, she dropped out of high school at 15, held various jobs and made paintings of Depression-era scenes. She had her first exhibit in 1935 at a Chicago art gallery when she was 17.

She joined the Works Progress Administration before moving to New York, where she worked for a costume jewelry company. She finally relocated to Los Angeles and worked in production illustration, translating blueprints to drawings for the aircraft industry.

She married a military doctor, George Wayne, and the couple had a daughter before they divorced. She then married Arthur Henry "Hank" Plone, who died in 2003. She is survived by her daughter, Robin Claire Park; granddaughter Ariane Junah Claire; grandson Jevon Claire; and stepdaughter Abby Moore.

Wayne first became interested in print making in the late 1940s. Frustrated by the rudimentary level of training she found in Los Angeles, she went to Paris in 1957 and sought out Marcel Durassier, a printer of artists' lithographs. They began a collaboration and in 1958 completed "John Donne, Songs and Sonnets," a series of lithographs based on the poet's work.

The series was acquired by the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, which later added 248 more lithographs by Wayne. Other large collections of her art are owned by LACMA and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her work with Durassier gave rise to her vision of Tamarind, she later wrote.

The name for her workshop came to her after Wayne settled on Tamarind Street in Hollywood in 1957. She first used it when she applied for a Ford Foundation grant, outlining her plan to create a place where professionally trained artisan-printers would team with well-known artists to revive the art of lithography.

Wayne opened her studio in 1960 with the help of the first of several grants from the foundation. Through the decade Tamarind continued as a nonprofit center. For Wayne, that status translated to artistic freedom. One of the print makers she helped train at Tamarind, Kenneth Tyler, later founded the Los Angeles print-making studio Gemini G.E.L. Another, Bud Shark, went on to found Shark's Inc. in Boulder, Colo.

Wayne turned the Tamarind archives over to the University of New Mexico in 1970. At that time the name was changed to the Tamarind Institute, but education and print making continued.

Once she stepped down from her position as director, Wayne, a social activist from her 20s, spent more of her time making art and supporting causes that affect artists.

"I think I run on indignation," Wayne said in an interview with The Times in 2008, when she was 90.

A celebration of her life is planned.

Rourke is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer.

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