Lillian Schwartz: Whirlwind of Creativity

Exhibit at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation®

  • March 25, 2023-March 31, 2024
  • Time: 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Lillian Schwartz: Whirlwind of Creativity is a career-retrospective exhibition showcasing the groundbreaking work of multimedia artist Lillian Schwartz.

Recognized for existing at the forefront of the digital art movement in the late 1960s, Lillian Schwartz broke barriers throughout her career in a field that was heavily dominated by men. Eager to bridge art, science and technology, Lillian worked at a time when artists were forced to defend computer-based artwork as a viable medium — while also actively trying to push its boundaries.  

Featuring over 100 artifacts, Lillian Schwartz: Whirlwind of Creativity explores three core themes across the artist’s life and career, including rarely shown mixed-media works, studio equipment, and large-scale film and video projections. 

  • Moving Forward 

    How did Lillian's upbringing influence her journey to discover her creative voice? Explore early works that featured mechanical movement or motion themes. 

  • Making Art in a Science Lab 

    What was the impact of Lillian's invitation to visit Bell Laboratories, a renowned research facility in New Jersey? Uncover Lillian's learning process during her first two years at Bell as she used new techniques to create computer-assisted art. 

  • The Limits and Possibilities of Machines 

    Lillian saw computers as exciting tools full of possibilities and sought out the limitations of technology to embrace glitches, feedback and happy mistakes. 

Today, art and media historians celebrate Lillian Schwartz as a pioneer who found innovative uses for new digital tools, producing revolutionary and genre-defying works of art. 

We invite you to celebrate Lillian's innovative body of work at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. The exhibition will also mark the debut of our new Collections Gallery, built specifically to host exhibitions of pieces from The Henry Ford’s own collections. 

Lillian Schwartz: Whirlwind of Creativity is curated by Kristen Gallerneaux, curator of communications & information technology at The Henry Ford. 

Artist Biography

Best known for her experimental films, animation, videos and computer-aided art analysis, Lillian Schwartz became an early adopter of computer art in the mid-1960s. Born in 1927 in Cincinnati, her creativity was apparent at a young age, and she experimented with painting, drawing and sculpture before turning to technology to expand her artwork.  

In 1968, her kinetic sculpture Proxima Centauri was selected as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age exhibit. She then expanded her work into the computer arena, becoming one of the first resident artists at AT&T Bell Laboratories (1968-2002) and later acted as a consultant at AT&T, IBM and Lucent Technologies. 

Her films were recently included in the 2022 Venice Biennale Milk of Dreams exhibit and, in the 1970s, began receiving honors at a variety of animation and film festivals, including the Ann Arbor Film Festival, CINE, Cannes and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1984, she received an Emmy Award for her computer-generated public service announcement for the Museum of Modern Art.  

In 2021, The Henry Ford became the official home of Lillian Schwartz’s archive and collection, which contains more than 5,000 2D and 3D objects, including her artwork, personal papers and library, photographs, computing equipment, and more, spanning from her childhood into her late career. View our up-to-date collection of digitized Lillian Schwartz artworks and artifacts

Become a Member and Save

Become a member for free admission to Lillian Schwartz: Whirlwind of Creativity, then use your membership for a full year of free admission to the museum and village, plus free parking and exclusive savings on ticketed events. 

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My story was as long as the pavement in front of my house. [...] When I had drawn as far as I could, I ran back to my house, sat on a step and looked at the pictures in my head to see the rest of the story.
Lillian Schwartz

Happy Birthday, Canvas Oil paint (Paint) Silk (Textile) Wood (Plant material)

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Abstract 8, 1969 Drawing

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Enigma, Paper (Fiber product)

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Factory #23, Etching (Print)

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Motion #2, Paper (Fiber product)

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Beyond Picasso, 1988 Paper (Fiber product)

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Homage to the Statue of Liberty, Print (Visual work)

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Homage to Duchamp, Engraving (Print)

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Dodo.Lost.Alice, 1984 Paper (Fiber product), Metal Plexiglas (TM), Mounting board

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Boulez Conducting, 1977 Print (Visual work)

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Ham's Kral AI-202, 1989 Print (Visual work)

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Light Box, 1966 Metal

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Head, Paper (Fiber product)

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Ticket Prices

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

    Member Non­member
Senior (62+) Free $32.50
General Admission (12-61) Free $36.00
Youth (5-11) Free $27.00
Children (4 & Under) Free Free

* Seasonal pricing will be in effect throughout the year. The pricing chart reflects the online discount price. There is an additional charge per ticket for purchases made on-site.