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Ashley Bickerton, honest without flinching about her work and her illness


Conversations with Ashley often turned humorous. “I need lightness. If you ask me my politics, I wouldn’t say Democrat, I would say George Carlin. As his carer gave him fries, he smiled and said, “The neocolonial way of life.” His speech was punctuated with tongue clacks and um-ahs. He chose his words carefully. Although in a wheelchair, he exuded a dazzling cheerfulness. His big ironic smile had a way of rocking you.

“I don’t have a Why me? or Oh, the injustice of it all, it never even occurred to me,” he told me. “There’s a kind of weird, detached bemusement, looking at everything that’s been happening to me, like, Oh, how interesting. And then a continual need to improvise and come to terms with new setbacks in my physical condition. He smiled, frowning, “You just keep adjusting to the new indignities.”

He continues: “I completely lost my legs. My hands are leaving soon. My voice and my ability to eat will drop, it’s the natural course of the disease. But I’m happy right now. I’m much more optimistic about all of this than I would expect to be at this point.

He knew his work for the Gagosian show would be his last. He had designed the paintings down to the smallest detail, entrusting the physical work to his assistant.

The last afternoon I spent with Ashley, we walked down to the studio, him in his wheelchair, his ridiculously cute three-year-old daughter, Io, in a pink tutu, chasing behind. In the studio, Ashley inspected one of the paintings from her new “Blur” series. It depicted a discreet and distant face shape, with a pair of bright blue circles for the eyes. “We’re getting so close,” he told his assistant. “But let’s do it right. These paintings are eternal.

Io was sliding around the studio on his Razor-style scooter, laughing wildly. She stopped beside her father. Studying the chart together, Ashley said, “Tell us what to do, little girl. We do not know. We are only adults.

nytimes Gt

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