by Jim Dittmann
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Photography by Douglas Edmunds

On View – January 30 – thru May 2 – MOWA
Ella Fitzgerald, 1983, digital archive print

Forty years ago, fresh from a successful exhibition of portraits at the Madison Art Center, Doug Edmunds determined to embark on a “National Portrait Series.” Seeking introductions from everyone he knew, he spent six years traveling from coast to coast to photograph “people of influence, notoriety and accomplishments.” 

In the case of Andy Warhol, dogged persistence was required. It took Edmunds four months in 1981 to secure an appointment with the Pop Art star at his Factory studio, but he put his allotted “fifteen minutes of fame” to great use, capturing more than ninety images of the artist, who, unsmilingly, posed as directed by the young photographer. When Warhol’s vaunted fifteen minutes were up, he left the room without a word. But Edmunds had the portraits—haunting, minimal studies of Warhol’s unmistakable visage, the gaze flat and frank but inscrutable, the personality at once stripped bare and completely veiled. 

Willie G. Davidson

Fortunately for Edmunds, he has had many more minutes in which to capture a number of names famous to most of America: Hank Aaron, Ella Fitzgerald, Aaron Copland, Allen Ginsberg, Lily Tomlin, Bob Woodward, and more. The portraits capture the distinctive personality—even aura—of these larger-than-life individuals and together provide a spectrum of leading figures of the time. 

The artist produced the large-format photographs in this exhibition by digitally scanning and enlarging the original black-and-white negatives taken with a camera.


MOWA is the pre-eminent resource for the visual arts of Wisconsin, acting as a catalyst for creativity, expression, inspiration and discovery.

The Museum of Wisconsin Art explores the art and culture of Wisconsin. Founded in 1961, MOWA is one of the top museums of regional art in the United States with over 5,000 works of contemporary and historic art by more than 350 artists.

The building’s modern wedge shape is a striking sight on the west bend of the Milwaukee River and is the centerpiece of the museum’s four-acre campus. With 18 rotating exhibitions and over 175 programs—from talks and tours to making art and meeting artists—MOWA attracts nearly 200,000 visitors annually. There is always something new to explore at MOWA. Visit to learn more.

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