John August Swanson often called PROCESSION a visual lexicon of his work–an artwork that incorporated stories and ideas he spent a lifetime working with.
This interactive map permits you to tap or click on a detail image to see an enhanced view of that image, find the reference, and learn more about other artworks related to it.
The titles and citations are taken from the original Procession Map, which Swanson created as a guide to his painting in 1983 (and then updated in 2007, with the printing of the serigraph). Where specific stories or figures are referenced in Swanson’s other artworks, links to those artworks will follow the citation. Artworks listed after the heading Related Artworks, will contain visual allusions to the referenced work, while telling other stories. Where no additional artworks meet either criteria, we have included Other Cultural References.
Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes
Jonah and the Big Fish
Daniel in the Lions’ Den
David Slays Goliath
Samson and Delilah
Other Cultural Reference:
Let the Bright Seraphim from Samson, by G.F. Handel featuring Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis
The Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace
David and the Lion
Adam and Eve Banished from the Garden or Eden
Abraham and Isaac
Moses in the Bullrushes
Moses Strikes Water from the Rock
Elijah and Elisha
Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi with Obed
The Miraculous Catch of Fish
Great Catch (Mosaic, 1993)
The Last Supper
The Raising of Lazarus
Raising of Lazarus (painting, 1989)
Take Away the Stone (Sketches, 1991)
Take Away the Stone (Painting, 1992)
Take Away the Stone (Painting, 1993)
Raising of Lazarus (Painting, 1994)
Take Away the Stone (Serigraph, 2005)
Gift of Life (from the Gift Triptych suite of Giclee prints, 2018)
“I Was in Prison and You Came to See Me”
The Baptism of Jesus
The River (Acrylic painting, 1986)
The River (Serigraph, 1987)
The River (Mosaic at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Glendale, California, 2012)
The River (Giclee, 2018)
The River (Mural at Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, California, 2018)
Mary Magdalene Washes Jesus Feet
Detail from Washing of the Feet (Serigraph, 2000)
Washing of the Feet (Painting, 1999)
Washing of the Feet 2 (Painting, 1999)
Washing of the Feet 3 (Painting, 1999)
Washing of the Feet (Serigraph, 2000)
Washing of the Feet II (Giclee edition, 2011)
He Washed their Feet (Giclee edition, 2012)
Washing of the Feet (Mural, 2015)
The Flight Into Egypt
The Three Kings or Wise Men
The Good Shepherd
The Entry Into Jerusalem
Entry into the City (Linework study, 1990)
Entry into the City (Painting in progress, 1990)
Entry into the City (Acrylic painting, 1990)
Entry into the City in Life Magazine, December 1994
Entry into the City (Acrylic painting, 2011)
Entry into the City (Giclee, 2012)
Pentecost: Descent of the Holy Spirit
St. Patrick, Archbishop of Armagh, Apostle of Ireland (c.389-461)
St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church (c.342-420)
St. Benedict, Abbot, Patriarch of Western Monks (died c.547)
St. Martin, Bishop of Tours (died 397)
St. Giles, Abbot (born c. 650)
A Guardian Angel
Excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1880
St. Scholastica, Abbess (died 543)
St. Paul in Chains
St. Rose of Lima (Peru, 1586-1617)
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Foundress of the Missionary Sisters of The Sacred Heart (1850-1917)
St. Michael (in Hebrew: “Who is Like God”) the Archangel
Everyman (You and I)
St. Cecilia, Martyr (3rd Century)
St. George, Martyr, Patron and Protector of the Kingdom of England (died c. 303)
Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
Saint Francis of Assisi (Lithograph, 1985)
Saint Francis of Assisi (Painting, 1999)
Francis and the Wolf (Serigraph, 2002)
Francis and the Birds (Giclee, 2015)
Francis Listens to the Fish (Giclee, 2018)
Canticle of the Sun Suite (Suite of 8 giclee prints, 2020)
St. Christopher (in Greek, Christophorus, Christ Bearer,” 3rd Century)
St. Veronica, Early Follower of Christ
This story is remembered as the sixth of the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207 Hungary -1231 Germany)
Swanson began the acrylic painting of The Procession in 1980. Profoundly moved by a procession at San Javier del Bac Mission in Tucson, Arizona, he was inspired to gather together earlier drawings, to develop them and create something wonderful. It took him 14 months to complete; he considered it the grand work of his life. When the director of the Vatican Museum’s Collection of Modern Religious Art expressed an interest in acquiring the painting, Swanson was thrilled. Loyola Marymount University purchased the painting and donated it to the Vatican Museums.
Printing the image as a serigraph edition in 2007, allowed Swanson to showcase the technique and skills he developed throughout his career. Emboldened with a growth in drawing insights and printing techniques, Swanson began to print this complex image, bringing it to an even more developed level than in the painting.
The initial printings were to establish the drawing and the changes he felt would be important to the new Procession. Once the drawn outline was established, he began changing and adding new elements to the image. Each of his 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 resulted 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.