Celebrating June Wayne

June Wayne

"What's important, it seems to me, is doing what you do as best you can, living your life as decently as you can, being neither a cannibal nor a missionary.

I think that freedom is always at risk.

I think artists like everybody else need freedom.

I think if we have any obligation at all it is the obligation to keep freedom intact; to allow people to develop decently and express themselves well." 

- June Wayne -

Hammer Museum Celebration

Gilah's Comments at the Hammer Museum Celebration :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::  I first met the mind of June Wayne by ear. 40 years ago, as a newly minted MFA working in my Santa Monica studio, I tuned into a radio broadcast  - and my life changed. Dazzled by eloquence and arrested by conviction, I was stunned by the courage of the content. While I was still metabolizing the difference between feminine and feminist, the orator, a woman, was simultaneously decrying the fact that women artists were not recognized, while the persona of the male artist reflected a stereotypic female. I quote: “It appears to me that society unconsciously perceives the artist as a female and that artists act out the feminized stereotypical patterns projected onto them. Inasmuch as these patterns are self-destructive and profoundly inhibiting to independent action, the ease with which artists are maintained in a state of disenfranchisement endures for generation after generation. It becomes profitable to many people to view the artist as one unable to cope with the real world of money and trade, although a pedestal is where the artist, like the woman, waits while others are alleged to cope in his behalf.” *1 I had never heard an artist talk like that before, and have never since. This virtual introduction to June, affirmed and formed a trajectory of thought and action in my life. Several months later, I received an invitation from this mysterious – and already exalted in my ears – June - to join a group of 20 women for a 6 week seminar in her Tamarind studio, on the business of art. Up to that time, no such course was offered in any university or art school. June dedicated her seminar to first boosting the knowledge of women artists as women were still invisible both in art history as well as in contemporary art galleries and museums. “Arrive punctually at 2. If late, you will not be admitted,” came the caveat at invitation’s end. Thrilled, humbled – and terrified - I arrived on time, was totally awed by the artist’s incredible joint (as she many years later sometimes called her awesome pad), and was catapulted into the complexities of the art world. The naïve notion of la vie boheme, the drunk and stoned artists’ world of poverty, self-doubt and self-destruction, was quickly blasted to bits and replaced with a pithy syllabus detailing the world of interlocking museum boards, resale licenses, tax laws, contracts with dealers, collectors, museums, ageism, discrimination against women and artists of color, and artist’s horror stories of all dimensions. We were goosed into action with facts such as:  Artists create the goods by which civilizations are measured. Then why are artists always at the bottom of the heap? June proposed gathering artists into guilds, to work together to change the art establishment. This call to collectivization was a heretic voice to the artist’s “m.o.” - a loner who was fiercely independent – therefore often living in self-imposed exile within the community. Before psychodrama was fashionable, June had us role-playing the parts of dealers, curators, collectors, shifting our stance from the ever-needy artist to a person of power and influence, balancing our understanding and behavior. Eyes wide opened, we were inducted into a world where art is commodity, commerce, and investment. Rather than hopeless victims of greed and lust, we were equipped with knowledge and tools to wield intelligent decisions regarding our lives and careers. We were initiated into the wary understanding between prospect and suspect; and led to examine the discrepancy in use, meaning and consequence of language used to describe the art of women and men. With June’s weekly volleys of information, we became missionaries to the cause, women of reason taking on the unreasonable. She made it very clear that the same set of neurons that could successfully run a household, or steer a PTA, could run a business or an empire, and create and be recognized for significant art. I named the seminar “Joan of Art” and later “Joan and John of Art” to include male artists. Under June’s aegis we spread the information across the country and built the foundation for the many business of art courses and art consultants that continue today. During that period as well, prompted by June’s advocacy of collectivization, the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists was formed and became the historic “mother” of all subsequent feminist artist organizations. That early seminal radio broadcast had not only focused on sticky social issues, but had tackled an even riskier arena. June was one of the few artists who devoured knowledge of all disciplines searching a fresh approach to her thought and art. Conventional knowledge – not wisdom- took for granted that artists (and women) were to be known by their imagery, not by their minds, seen and not heard. Art and intellect were illicit bedfellows and the brainy artist was not only NOT valued, but posed a grave threat. June wrote, “Reaction to a brainy artist is like reaction to a female intellectual: neither is quite to be believed.” Both male and female artists were deemed to be divinely inspired in a miracle moment, “a creative seizure”, and generally devoid of intellect. Thinking was left to academics, scientists and literati. June confronted the prevailing image of artist as inept, inchoate, unworldly - by bringing brains, psychological and political insight couched in verbal fireworks, into the ring, creating gaping holes in a time-held social fabric. “For the moment,” she wrote in ‘73, “I will be content if more of us accept ourselves as the intellects we are. This first step could lead us almost anywhere”. That “anywhere” had June always vigilant and in a combative stance. As a master of subtle tones of greys in her art, there was nothing subtle or grey in her perpetual battle for justice. From politics to parking tickets, June’s gloves were always ready. To spend time with June was either to drown in a litany of causes, or be caught by conscience and example, don armor, take sides and plunge into the fight towards the greater good. In the last year of her life, one of her battle cries was “birth control for artists” – bringing an ecological awareness to the overpopulation of the world of stuff, art as stuff. Where will it be housed? Who will care for it? What should be destroyed? And she suggested curtailing the output of artist’s oeuvre. Radical! But cogent and conscientious. Thought provoking … While June was “fueled by indignation,” friends were filled with admiration. Even as her rants and writings against injustice continued, she loved just as fiercely and was torn by heaving sobs when she lost her beloved Hank. The warrior June never gave up her chainmail, but as June of Art, she mellowed immensely over the years, as she more consciously and demonstrably treasured those whom she loved. Beneath that armor was a loving, kind-hearted woman, a warm, concerned, caring friend. In our final conversation, a few days before her last breath, she considered the threshold between the known and the unknown with keen objectivity. “Still so much to do,” she iterated with dismay and futility. I reminded her of some of her prodigious accomplishments… June then asked me, what would I do next? Would I pray for her? I was taken aback. Religion of any kind was anathema to our June. Always interested in a new angle, was she weighing a possibility that she had so vehemently quashed? I replied that I was astonished by her question, but that I was actively taking her mission throughout the world to continue the work that she had set in motion. She regarded me thoughtfully, and said, “Your’s may be the last face I see and that would be good.”  We comforted each other with words of action. I am ever grateful for the privilege of having known June closely. She was both source and agent of change.  The breadth, depth and continuing repercussions of her vision, intellect, artwork, and activism, attest to a life lived brilliantly, and will continue to affect generations to come; while the affectionate, questioning, slightly bemused look in her eyes, along with her inimitable voice of conviction indelibly etched into my mind, will keep June close to me, always. *1 Art Journal, Published by the College Art Association of America, Summer 73, xxx11/4, Wayne, June. The Male Artists As A Stereotypic Female, pages 414-416

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