| Artist’s Notes
The acrylic painting of the Procession was started in 1980. I was profoundly moved by a procession at San Javier del Bac Mission in Tucson, Arizona. I was inspired to gather together earlier drawings, to develop them and create something wonderful. It took me 14 months to complete. It was the grand work of my life. I was so pleased when the director of the Vatican Museum's Collection of Modern Religious Art wanted the painting. Subsequently, Loyola/Marymount University purchased the painting and gave it to the Vatican Museums.
I am taking this image to a new place, printing it as a serigraph edition in 2007. At this time of my life I felt ready to accept the challenges and problems that this last serigraph printing offers. Emboldened with a growth in drawing insights and printing techniques, I began to print this complex image. I was able to bring it to an even more developed level than in the painting.
The initial printings were to establish the drawing and the changes that I felt would be important to the new PROCESSION. Once the drawn outline was established, I could begin changing and adding new elements to the image. Each of my 89 drawings used for printing the colors began to create the sense of a rich mosaic. At the end of twelve months of printing, the new serigraph results in a work quite different from the early acrylic painting: more intense, the drawings more detailed and developed.
The places that inspired this image are the beautiful cathedrals I have seen in Europe and Mexico: Chartres, France; Canterbury, England; Notre Dame, Paris; the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona; the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City and Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles. These are sacred places used for procession. There are sacred places throughout the world for all beliefs, places that have special meaning in the lives of people who journey to get there. They experience a centering, a healing, and a safe place to remember and to hope.
The journey or procession takes us out of our ordinary lives to experience a transcendental or universal connection. The outward walk reflects an inner journey. We have taken the steps to move to another space in the journey of our lives. I see in the walking meditations led by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and global peacemaker, a profound example of a true procession. Each step for him is a gesture and a hopeful prayer for peace.
In the Buddhist tradition, the mandala is used for spiritual centering. I see a form of mandala in the PROCESSION. As in the mandala, there is a complexity of images where all elements and ideas are drawn to the center. These images encircle the people. This picture gives us a connection, setting us apart from the extraneous happenings and distractions that surround our lives. It helps to focus our attention. It can provide us with the opportunity to stand back and review each of the scenes in ways that help us engage in contemplation and calm reflection on our complex lives. It becomes a metaphor for our own experiences.
Processions also move us toward a transformation of more than just our individual hearts. Martin Luther King organized processions and marches for civil rights in the south, accompanied by spiritual leaders of different faiths. He gathered people together to work for change and for the understanding of nonviolence. Cesar Chavez, the leader of the United Farm Workers, organized farm laborers to work for their rights and to improve their lives. To gather support for their movement, they also walked many miles in procession, carrying banners and flags as a way of spiritual empowerment.
We, in our communities of faith, are a procession of stories, stories both unique and shared, stories connected to those who have gone before us and those who will come after us. The theologian, Professor Alejandro Garcia-Rivera (1951-2010), wrote, "THE PROCESSION invites us to join its imagination and, in doing so, we also become part of THE PROCESSION. Our living story commingles with the little stories of the Mission and, then, somehow we realize that our story is part of a larger story, a Big Story of Heaven coming to Earth and bringing forth new life." We gather in celebration of, and respect for, each person's story and in expectation and awe of the story we are becoming together. This is the reality I seek to touch upon in this work.
Noted historian, Howard Zinn, offers this reflection: “What we choose to emphasize in this [our] complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places…where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act… And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future in an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
It is not my desire that the complexity and intricacy of this work confuse or confound, but that it illuminate and inspire. We are invited to join together in the procession to help each other see in ways we have never seen before, to help each other see again what we have forgotten, to see something familiar in a new way, in a new light, from a different perspective.
The great procession is a celebration of life and faith where the rich and poor march in unison; the strong carry the weak, and the weak humble the proud; those who know the dance teach those who are just learning; and a child lifts high the banner for all to follow in joy, in peace, in love. This is the reality, the spirit I want to make real in this work.
-- John August Swanson, September 2007
The original painting of The Procession (1982) is in the Vatican Museum's Collection of Modern Religious Art.
An original, hand-printed serigraph published by the artist with collaboration of Aurora Serigraphic Studio, Van Nuys, CA.
completed September, 2007.
Edition Size: 250
Dimensions: Image: 36" x 24"
Paper: 42" x 30"
Paper: Coventry, 100% cotton rag, acid free, Vellum White
Detail from The Procession