June Wayne was born in Chicago, IL on March 7, 1918. She was raised as June Claire Kline by her divorced mother, Dorothy Alice Kline, a traveling saleswoman in the corset business. She had aspirations to be an artist and dropped out of high school at the age of fifteen to pursue this goal. She had her first exhibition at the Boulevard Gallery in Chicago in 1935. Wayne exhibited her watercolors under the name June Claire. She exhibited work again the following year at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. By 1938, she was employed as an artist for the WPA Easel Project in Chicago.
In 1939, Wayne moved to New York, supporting herself as a costume jewelry designer by day and continuing to paint at night and on weekends. She married Air Force surgeon George Wayne in 1941, and although the couple divorced, she substituted his name, Wayne, for Claire and continued to use "June Wayne" as her professional identity for the duration of her life. When the United States became involved in World War II, she moved to Los Angeles and became certified Production Illustration at Cal Tech/Art Center School, training which helped her find work converting blueprints to drawings for the aircraft industry. Wayne later returned to Chicago, taking a job as a scriptwriter at the radio station WGN. Nonetheless production illustration was infiltrating her aesthetic imagination resulting in signature works of optical art ("The Tunnel" and the Kafka series) starting in the mid 1940s. As for the WGN experience, it honed her literary talent and eventually she would write influential essays on artist's rights, art criticism, and feminism.
At the end of World War II, June Wayne returned to Los Angeles and became an integral part of the California art scene. She took up lithography at Lynton Kistler's facility and painted and exhibited intensively. By the mid 1950s, she also had become a familiar artist in Paris, collaborating with French master printer Marcel Durassier, with whom she did a livre d'artiste on the love sonnets of John Donne in 1958.
In 1959, W. MacNeil Lowry of the Ford Foundation suggested to Wayne that she write a plan to revitalize the art of lithography which was floundering in the United States. The result was the Tamarind Lithography Workshop which opened in 1960; Wayne as its director and the Ford Foundation as its funder. She worked with artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Rufino Tamayo, and Louise Nevelson. By the late 1960s, Tamarind had become an international force in the printmaking arts so Wayne transformed the Workshop into a permanent format as the TAMARIND INSTITUTE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO where it continues to this day. Her own lithographs are widely recognized as masterpieces of the medium.
Wayne was also involved in the Feminist Art Movement in California in the 1970s. Perhaps her biggest contribution to the movement was in education, as Wayne taught a series of professionalization seminars entitled "Joan of Art" to young women artists beginning around 1971.
Along with fellow artists Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Ruth Weisberg, and others, Wayne was a founding member of the Los Angeles Council of Women in the Arts, which sought the equal representation of women artists in museum exhibitions. She was also part of the selection committee for the exhibition Contemporary Issues: Works on Paper by Women, which opened at the Los Angeles Woman's Building in 1977 and featured the works of over 200 women artists.
Wayne's art has been exhibited all over the world and is part of several museum collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Norton Simon Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Rhode Island School of Design, Moore College of Art and Design, California College of Arts and Crafts, and The Atlanta College of Fine Arts.
In 2002, Wayne became a research professor at the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper. Wayne also donated a group of over 3,300 prints, both her work and the work of other artists, to the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, which established the June Wayne Study Center and Archives to house the collection.
Wayne passed away at her Tamarind Avenue studio in Hollywood, CA on August 23, 2011 with her daughter and granddaughter by her side.