June Colors

What first catches the eye in June Edmonds’ 1981 “Self-Portrait” is the central subject’s expression: her slightly arched brow, slip of mouth held taut, neither smiling, nor unsmiling, but stirred. Interrupted perhaps, from her close work at an easel stretched before her, paintbrush in hand. We peer over her shoulder, taking in the bright workspace — orange backpack, turquoise walls, butter-yellow of the table and blouse echoing the silhouette taking shape on the canvas — but also absorbing Edmond’s inscrutable gaze. It’s what lies within that inquisitive expression that informs her body of work. She would work in this figurative style as a way to locate and articulate herself, and her world, as a Black American woman.

June Edmonds, “Self-portrait in Studio,” (detail), 1981, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in., Copyright of the artist.

Born in Los Angeles, Edmonds was influenced early on by artists Varnette Honeywood, Romare Beardon, Charles White and David Hockney. Edmonds, who now describes herself as an abstract artist, has not shifted course in subject matter, rather in expression. This evolution she characterizes as a “loosening” or “improvisation[al]” way to tunnel deeper into untold stories. “Full Spectrum” connects her preoccupations and approaches over a 40-year span: The set-pieces — people and place alongside the abstracts, reinterpretations of the U.S. flag, intersecting, twirling wheels of color — showcase Edmonds’ deep meditation on the arc of the Black experience in America, and her undeterred desire to make it legible. June

June Edmonds, “Alicia,” 1999 (oil on canvas, 36 x 35 inches). Copyright June Edmonds. Courtesy of the artist, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles and Laband Art Gallery.

Lynell George, a frequent contributor to LMU Magazine, is a journalist and essayist based in Los Angeles. She is the author of  “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler.” In December 2019, SPJ/LA awarded her its Distinguished Journalist Award. Her feature “Sweet Hope” appeared in the summer 2018 issue of LMU Magazine (Vol. 8, No. 2) and was named among the Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2018 in “The Best American Essays, 2019.”

June Edmonds’ “Full Spectrum” exhibition is showing on campus at the LMU Laband Art Gallery. Go to CFA.lmu.edu/LabandGallery for visiting hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.