From May through the end of 2019, The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will exhibit twenty of my serigraphs and giclees. The exhibit is located in the Art Chapel, accessible from the North Ambulatory. Below, we have prepared a list of the artworks displayed, and some information about each piece. If you have any questions about the artworks or the exhibit, you are welcome to contact my studio.
36" x 24"
89 colors printed
Everyone, and every community of faith, is a procession of stories. Stories are both unique and shared; they connect us to those who have gone before us, and to those who will come after us. THE 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 of peace teach those who are just learning it, and a child lifts high the banner for all to follow in joy, in peace, and in love. This is the reality, the spirit, that John August Swanson wants to make real in art.
Processions can move us all toward transformation. To gather support for their movements, people have walked many miles in procession, carrying banners and flags as a way of physical and spiritual empowerment. Martin Luther King, accompanied by spiritual leaders of different faiths, organized processions and marches for civil rights in the South. Cesar Chavez, the leader of the United Farm Workers, organized farm laborers to work for their rights and to improve their lives. Throughout history, people have gathered together to work for change through processions of understanding and nonviolence.
THE PROCESSION is John August Swanson’s most detailed and complicated artwork. The serigraph took 12 months to print; and it combines 54 different stories, shown in icons and banners throughout the artwork.
THE SHEPHERDS is based on a very early crayon sgraffito painting from 1969. John August Swanson would build up layers of brightly colored wax crayon, and then, using a metal scribe as a scraping tool, he drew intricate patterns and figures into the layers of crayon.
He felt that it was very important to go back and reconsider this artwork; it was important to go back and refine the figures, the animals, the buildings, the night sky, and the angel. He needed to share this artwork with people, so that we may consider the plight and hardships which the majority of our human family still face.
The shepherds were the poorest of workers. An angel tells them to go to a small shed in the fields. There, they find a new born baby and his homeless, refugee parents in the winter night.
38½" x 12 ⅛"
55 colors printed
Mary and Joseph take the child Jesus to the temple with the offering of two doves. This was the offering of the poorest. It was a symbol of thanksgiving for their firstborn. At the entrance they meet Simeon and Anna who are both old and waiting and praying in the temple. They both approach the family and honor the new born Jesus.
In this scene are the gates, courtyard, steps, temple entrance, and the dome. It is night--people are carrying their offerings of candles and doves. The walls have intricate carvings of narrative scenes. Angels open and guide the pathways and entrances.
FLIGHT INTO EGYPT
38½" x 12 ⅛"
47 colors printed
The lonely flight of the Holy Family is depicted visually by the exact layering of transparent colors and drawings, creating a myriad of fine details and rich colors. FLIGHT INTO EGYPT, a vertical-panorama, engages the viewer with the Holy Family's escape to Egypt under a massive star filled sky and within a complex landscape, where many events are occurring and are realized in great detail.
I envision the biblical story of the Holy Family in reference to current events, photos, and stories of people who must leave their homes. Whether fleeing wars or natural disasters, they are all refugees in makeshift towns who have to move to safer places in order to survive. I wanted to capture the urgent plight of a poor family protecting their newborn child from imminent danger, while fleeing to an unknown country.
38½" x 12 ⅛"
48 colors printed
EPIPHANY depicts the journey of the three Magi
as they travel up a serpentine trail. They look up in search of
their beautiful guiding star as angels surround and point to it.
38½" x 12 ⅛"
48 colors printed
THE NATIVITY captures the humility of the birth of Christ with Mary and Joseph in a simple manger surrounded by farm animals. Sheep, goats, and donkeys appear against the rolling hills, which are reminiscent of the varied landscapes of my home state of California. I wanted to show people bringing gifts. They are the poor people in the region, and they are all bringing their meager offerings to share with the homeless holy family. The gifts they share are: firewood, eggs, bread, flour, milk, water, fruit ... even a small child has come to serenade them. The angels are on the highest point of the panel, occupied with making music. Four hold hands as they dance in a circle beneath the musicians.
38½" x 11 ¾"
42 colors printed
In the central panel, dazzling angels awaken the sleeping shepherds with their message of the birth of the Messiah.
The shepherds are startled by the appearance of the angels in the star filled night sky. Some of the shepherds are sleeping, others are startled. They look up at the beautiful angels. Even some of the sheep look up at the angels. The angel closest to them carries the message: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news.”
38½" x 14 ½"
61 colors printed
A VISIT (Luke 1:26-38) presents the Annunciation by Gabriel to Mary. Mary is shown as a member of a community. She would have had a great depth of knowledge from oral traditions and customs formed by the people around her. This knowledge and storytelling, comparable to a complex woven fabric of many threads, is shown in the 25 scenes of biblical stories throughout the piece.
The sacred comes through ordinary life, all those depicted are doing their everyday work. There is no grandeur or power over others. Mary is shown as a young woman feeding chickens and sweeping her pathway; on her apron is the Holy Spirit and the tree showing the lineage to her Jewish ancestors. She will be the first to be blessed by the angels.
THE RIVER supplies the water of life to us all as it winds along its course. Each person shares in its blessing, reminding us of our need to keep growing in understanding and compassion for all people, and to see our common source. It connects us to our ancestors, to our descendants, and to all humanity. It is a symbol of giving, and of family.
Communities are formed around rivers: farmers irrigate crops with their surplus; shepherds bring flocks to drink from their waters; people wash, clean clothes, and collect drinking water at their banks, as their children play. All share THE RIVER’s blessing.
The artwork also closely connects to John August Swanson’s family. His mother was raised in the isolated Sierra Nevada Mountains of Mexico. One of her fondest remembrances was on the feast of St. John the Baptist, when her family would go to the river to have a picnic and bathe in the water. Many celebrations and rituals take place at rivers. Some appear ordinary while others are mystical, but each one is integral to who we are and where we come from.
STORY OF JOSEPH
26" x 18"
34 colors printed
The serigraph was based on a small earlier watermedia painting finished in 1985. I wanted to capture this narrative and used a configuration of three larger panels and six smaller panels. I used the highlights of the story but also added text to help understand it better. The text was drawn with elaborate calligraphy so that it became part of the decorations that surrounds the borders. Among the decorative border elements there are small symbols that connect to the dreams, i.e. the sheaves of wheat, the stars and the sun, the grapes, and the chalice.
This story moves me in understanding our journey in life. Joseph had so much to learn, but had to suffer so much to mature. And it also speaks to us about forgiveness, especially among families.
STORY OF THE PRODIGAL SON
13½" x 40"
58 colors printed
Twenty years after creating THE PRODIGAL SON serigraph, I reimagined the original drawing and expanded each of the five panels with more details. I used this drawn outline as a map, to select and build up each of the colors. For each color, I drew an intricate stencil. The careful layering of each printing creates a matrix of drawings and a depth of intense colors. The layers of inks were varied: clear glazes, strong transparent and opaque inks.
Francis looks out to the distance in wonder, through dense foliage and over green hills to faraway towns. He welcomes the morning with his brothers and sisters, the colorful animals of the forest, and contemplates our place in creation.
Bordering the image are 24 scenes depicting a visual biography of his life. The scenes show Francis caring for nature and all creation, as well as helping, and empowering people on their journeys through life.
I see Francis as a human who struggles. A man who sought ways to give help to others. Francis is a hero, mentor, and spiritual companion. From his life, we can look at the scenes of our lives and see the potential for the extraordinary.
I wanted to portray Mary as a young woman close to the earth.
MADONNA OF THE HARVEST expresses the goodness and beauty of Mother Earth; it celebrates a humankind that cares for the Earth, and is able to share the world's bounty.