Lis J. Schwitters - Photographic Artist & Printmaker
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FAQ & Thoughts
Art Collecting 101
My thoughts on Collecting Art
Art patronage is key By Donna Granata

21 Hot Collecting Tips For The New Nillennium by John Nichols - PDF
How to buy a photograph by John Nichols - PDF
Dear Dr. Art in your office by John Nichols - PDF
Ten Tips on Making Art Part of Your Life by Jackson Wheeler - PDF
Is photography art? By Robert Redford
Why should people buy and own Art? By Alan Bamberger
Hanging a picture (Tips) by Lisa Jaffe Hubbell - PDF
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My Schwitters’ Family History
The following illustrates the migration of my family and Kurt Schwitters' family from the results of documents from my family history research.
I have been able to trace the Schwitters' name from Switzerland where it was spelled "Schwitter" without the final "s". From my research, I have concluded that due to war or religious reasons, the "Schwitter" name moved north from Switzerland to the Frisian area high-lighted in yellow. All of this area, at one time, spoke Frisian and now, only a small area of the Province Friesland in northwest Holland and Denmark speak it today. The Frisian language is its own language, not a version of Low-German (Platt), German or Dutch. Due to the naming practices in Friesland,the final "s" was then added to the name.
Map - Schwitters' Family History
The name "Schwitters" is not a common one making research relatively easy. Unfortunately, I am not a professional Genealogist and my research of microfilmed documents provided from the LDS Family History Centers and some correspondence from some Genealogy centers in Europe has left me with incomplete information. The need for a professional Genealogist and possible DNA testing may reveal more information. My research has ended with our families living approximately 15 miles away, 1857 in Wittmund, Prussia and 1817 in Dornum, Prussia. My conclusion is that I am distantly related to Kurt Schwitters.

It was in the early 1970's when I first heard of Kurt Schwitters and that he was an artist. I was told by my Grandmother that he was my Grandfather's cousin and that they met once in Amsterdam in the 1920's. My Grandmother was interviewed by Dutch media regarding this meeting. In 2000, I had time available and began to research my Genealogy to document the connection.

I found that Kurt Schwitters was born on June 20, 1887 in Hanover, Germany and died January 8, 1948 in Kendal, England as a British Citizen. His father, Eduard Hermann Schwitters was born on February 27, 1857 in Wittmund, Eastfriesland, Prussia and died at the age of 74 on May 16, 1931 in Hanover, Germany. Kurt's family continues back four generations living in the town of Wittmund.

My family emigrated to America in 1962 from Amsterdam. I can trace my family back six generations to the town of Dornum, Prussia.

One mile south of Dornum is the town of Schwittersum. My guess is that this is the town created by the first Schwitter from Switzerland who migrated to Eastfriesland and settled there.
The name “Schwitters” originated in Switzerland and moved north to East Friesland, the region indicated in Yellow.
Map - Schwitters' Family History
For more information about Kurt Schwitters:
Sprengel Museum
Catalog Raisonné
The red line on the right, from Wittmund to Hanover, and the red lines on the left from Dornum to Groningen and then to Amsterdam,
indicates the migrations of our families.

How did you get started in Photography?
I was quite young, maybe in 1st or 2nd grade when I can remember flipping through the pages of a series of Time-Life books on various institutions on Art; such as the Louver, the Palace of Versailles and the art in the Vatican City. I couldn’t believe that people can paint this kind of realism .

Sometime during the summer of 1975, when I was 11 years old, I was dragged thru the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; I didn’t see anything that appealed to me, but I do remember standing with a crowd of people observing Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”. Only a few months later, on September 14, 1975, a deranged man took a knife to the work. I wondered, “What would make a person go to that extreme about a work of art?”

I thought that was pretty powerful that Art could do something like that to a person.

It was around this time that I learned of Kurt Schwitters. I looked up my last name in our Encyclopedia and was startled to find my name listed! I read his entry and learned a great deal about him.

My opinions on Art at this point was that it could be pretty powerful stuff. In my teen years I grew to become a pretty competent illustrator favoring pen and ink to express my visions. I grew frustrated that drawing was so slow and I didn't have a photographic memory. The point to Art, I thought, was to capture an image. I had a burning desire to capture images and wanted a new tool to do so. I got myself a camera. In high school, I wanted to join the school’s newspaper’s staff as a cartoonist, following Mark Kostabi. I made the “mistake” of showing up to the interview with my camera slung over my shoulder. I was immediately recruited to be the staff photographer, and in doing so, plunging all my efforts into the job and loving every moment and never turning back.

Please explain some of your Equipment and Photographic Techniques used in creating your Art.
The camera equipment I currently own includes 35mm, 2/14 and 4x5 film formats along with two Digital cameras. I do rent camera equipment in a variety of other formats. I still maintain a working darkroom with two 4x5 enlargers. On the Digital side, I use; a computer, many photo editing software programs, printers and a scanner. The most unusual piece of equipment that I worked with was a horizontal 8 x 10 enlarger that moved on tracks like a train in the photo lab at JPL. It was half the size of a VW bug.

Photographic Techniques
The first photographic processed I learned, in the mid 1970’s, was the Cyanotype. The English astronomer Sir John William Herschel (1792 - 1871) invented the Cyanotype in 1842 as a method for copying his mathematical notes much like how we now use a copy machine today. The Cyanotype is a non-silver photographic process using Iron Salts which when exposed to an ultraviolet light source, oxidizes to produce a rich Prussian Blue Print. This is not the same as an architectural “Blue - Print”.

The second process was the Van Dyke Brown - Print. It takes its name from the 17th century Flemish painter Anthony Van Dyke whose work was rich in brown tones. Sir John William Herschel is also accredited as having discovered this process. The emulsion of the print contains light - sensitive Iron and Silver Salts (Ferric Ammonium Citrate, Ammonium Citrate and Silver Nitrate) that when exposed to an Ultraviolet light source, oxidizes to produce a rich brown print.

Next came your typical black and white photo, and there are two types: The Gelatin Silver Fiber Based Print, first available in 1870. This paper contains light - sensitive Silver Bromide Salts in a gelatin emulsion of purified animal protein on an archival wood pulp paper base. Second, is the Resin - Coated, “RC” Print. This paper is coated on both sides with a plastic - polyethylene layer, which makers if non - archival. Both types are handled differently in the darkroom but look the same and have different life spans.

I print all my digital works using archival pigment inks. These prints are archival.

Do you call your Geometric Abstractions Photographs or is it Digital Art?
It’s both.
Photography has evolved into the Digital age as images that have been recorded as binary data. Ways to record an image using binary data include using a camera, a scanner and photo-software programs. A Digital Photograph is Raster graphic based vs. Vector graphic based (used in Graphic Illustration Art). These images were produced in Adobe Photoshop,a Raster graphic based program.

Did you see/meet a lot of famous people while working at
Warner Brothers Studios and Paramount Pictures?
The answer is “Yes” and I like to tell the stories at receptions, so don’t forget to ask me.

Movies I worked on as a Photo Lab Employee at
Warner Bros. Studios and Paramount Pictures - 1993 to 2000.
(176 Features)
Above the Law
Absolute Power
Ace Ventura - Pet Detective
Ace Ventura- When Nature Calls
Ace Ventura- Animated
Airborne (2/18/94)
Anna Karenian
Arizona Dream
Back in the USSR
Batman (Animated)
Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997)
Being Human
Best of Daniel (Forever Young)
Big Bully
Black Beauty
Boiling Point (Moneyman)
Born to be Wild (The great ape Escape)
Born to Drive (The Recruit)
This Boy’s Life
Boys on our Side
The Bridges of Madison Co.
The Butcher Boy
Cats Don’t Dance
Chain (Drop Dead)
Chariots of fur
City of Joy
The Client
Conspiracy Theory
Dark Territory (Under Siege II)
The Delinquents
Demolition Man
Dennis the Menace
Empire Records
Executive Decision
Fair Game
Falling Down
Father’s Day (Les Comperes)
Fire Down Below
Free Willy (1, 2 & 3)
The Fugitive
The Game
The Glimmer Man
Good Bye Lover
Good Fellas
Grumpier Old Men
Grumpy Old Men
Heaven & Earth
The Honest Courtesan (Indiscretion)
Howard’s End
The Hudsucker Proxy (1/13/94)
If Looks Could Kill
Imaginary Crime
Innocent Blood
Interview with a Vampire
It Takes Two (Me & My Shadow)
A Little Princess
Jingle All the Way
Joe’s Apartment
Just Cause
LA Confidential
The Last Boy Scout
The Last of the Mohicans
Lawn Dogs
Liberty, Nevada (Trial & Error)
Little Giants (9/16/94)
Little Panda
Love Affair
Mad City
Made in America
Major League
Mambo Kings
Man Without a Face
Mars Attacks
Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Michael Collins
Mission Impossible II
Murder at 1600
Murder in the First
My Fellow Americans
Natural Born Killers
The New Age
North Star
A Perfect World
On Deadly Ground
Other Peoples Money
Out for Justice (Price of our Blood)
Passenger 57
The Pelican Brief
Point of No Return
Police Academy 7
PRE (Prefontaine)
Presumed Innocent
The Proprietor
The Power of One
Pulp Fiction
The Quest
Quick Change
Rapa Nui
Reckless Kelly
Richie Rich
The Runaway Jury
The Saint of Fort Washington
Sand Blast
Save the Last Dance
Second Best
The Secret Garden
Silent Fall
Six Degrees of Separation
Something to Talk About
South Central
The Spanish Prisoner
Space Jam
The Specialist
Stay Tuned
The Stars Fell on Henrietta
Stranger Within (Sommersby)
The Sunchaser
Surviving Picasso
Sweet Nothings
Tears of Julian Po
That Night
Thor (Bad Moon)
A Time to Kill
Tin Cup
Trial by Jury
Trojan War
True Romance
Turtle Beach
Two if by Sea (Stolen Hearts)
Until the End of the World
Vegas Vacation
War of the Buttons
Weekend at Bernie’s II
White Sands
Wild America
With Honors
Wrestling Earnest Hemingway
Wyatt Earp
8 Heads in a Duffel Bag

A partial list of notable Motion Picture Still Photographers whose work I printed
while employed at Warner Bros. Studio Facilities Photo Lab.
K.C. Bailey
James Bridges
Marsha Blackurn
Linda Chen
Murray Close
Andrew Cooper
Mark Fellman
John Farmer
Anthony Friedkin
Marty Granger
Suzanne Hanover
Magdlene Kispal
Christine Loss
Mary Ellen Mark
Merrick Morton
Bruce McBroom
Yariv Milchan
Melissa Moseley
Ralph Nelson
Herb Ritts (Batman)
Takashi Seida
Peter Sorel
Michael Tackett
Bruce W. Talamon
Steven Vaughan
Joel David Warren

My thoughts on Collecting Art
Buy/Invest in what you are drawn to and relate to about the piece. Does the work have a story that affects you? Would you like to talk about this piece with your friends and retell its story or the story about the person who created it? The Art you bring into your home will influence whoever views it. It will also reveal things about the person who possesses it as well as any story it holds.

Art patronage is key by Donna Granata
Regarding the recent article, "Are We There Yet," (Feature, 5/3/07), Ventura has all of the potential to become one of the nation's Great Art Cities. Not only do we have a beautiful community; with lots on natural assets and amenities, it is the seat to the county with Ventura on the front line to all that the area has to offer. Our community is home to outstanding artists, many of whom are recognized nationally and internationally who work quietly in their studios as the world continues to spin.Ventura is in a very unique position; we know that gentrification is a reality and the community is poised to do something about it. Patronage is a mindset the community must adopt in order for all us to prosper. We need to support and foster the artist's livelihoods so that they continue to thrive as gentrification takes place. Supporting the art community is as easy as a commitment to buy items that are handmade.Next time you head to the mall to by a gift, head towards a gallery or artist's studio instead. Next time you want to visit the Pottery Barn, visit a local ceramist. Need a new rug? Visit a weaver. Remodeling your home? Consider hand made tiles, leaded windows, or unique items that only an artist can produce. Want to give the gift of music? Buy a CD from a local musician. Support the artists at what ever level you can afford. The entire community must long for an appreciation of the artist's hand. Only then, will our art community truly thrive.

May 17, 2007 Ventura County Reporter

Editor’s note: Donna Granata is the Founder and Executive Director of Focus on the Masters. For more information, please visit:

Is photography art?
This seems to be a debate among eggheads. I won’t enter such a debate because I believe it is. Any medium that uses self-expression to provoke the imagination to bring an enhanced pleasure to the senses is art.

My problem is not the issue so much as the fact that I can’t do it. I mean really. Imagine not being able to work a camera. Imagine a tool such as that turning into a dead bolt in your hands. Alas, for someone who sees art everywhere - in history, in nature, in space, in textures, shapes and colors and in the people. But I can’t get a decent photo. My eyes exploding with desire to record, to use my imagination to provoke the imagination of others and - nothing. Nothing but the dull silence of a shutter that will not clink. No red light to glow, no bright light to flash - no satisfying click of the release. Some many great moments and special sights remain mute in the instrument in my hands. “Here, let me try,” someone would say. And it would work. “Here, try my camera,” another would say. And it wouldn’t work. Clearly it is me. So I have nothing to show for my experience except what I can tell, write down or sketch my memory. But my respect for photography as art remains strong - maybe stronger because I can’t get the damn thing to work. I hope you enjoy the work of someone who can.

- Robert Redford

Editor's note: written for the forward for one of his catalogs.

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