Rick Ashley
A Down Syndrome man in a Superman onesie lying asleep on a couch, shelves of books in the background.

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Michael #145973
Collection of the artist

Michael, artist Rick Ashley’s brother-in-law, has Down Syndrome. During the process of making photographs together since 1975, the pair have developed a comfortable working relationship. Their collaborations challenge viewers to reevaluate their assumptions about Michael and, by extension, others. Here, in an effort to combine Michael’s natural candor with the artificial nature of posing for a portrait, Ashley had Michael choose his own pose but gave him some direction. Ashley sees the Superman outfit—Michael’s favorite article of clothing—as an extension of the fashionable dress worn in portraits of aristocrats from earlier centuries, and he relates many of his compositional elements to the work of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Édouard Manet, John Singer Sargent, and Edward Hopper. Ashley notes, “By appropriating methods of representation utilized throughout the history of art, we can change preconceived notions regarding Michael without changing Michael.”