Updated: Apr 1, 2019
My daughter Emily is an art lover. She enjoys finding the beautiful in the ugly, disadvantaged and derelict. She is also very interested in Medical Art. This was her impetus for a recent trip to New York City and the Ellis Island Immigration Hospital.
Ellis Island is in Upper New York Harbour and has been part of the Statue of Liberty monument since 1965. For 60 years, 12 million immigrants passed through this island on their way to becoming United States citizens. To medically treat the incoming, the government opened the hospital in 1902. The hospital had two wards; one a general hospital and a separate pavilion for contagious disease. For a time, it even had mental health facilities.
The hospital was once one of the largest public health facilities in the country. It closed operations in 1930, and the buildings neglected since. The 'Save Ellis Island' fund provides limited hard hat tours. This helps raise money for refurbishment of the building and its grounds.
JR is a French graffiti artist who fly posts his large photos onto public spaces. He worked with the Save Ellis Island project, installing enlarged original photographs. Images of immigrants, doctors and nurses garnish the crumbling walls of the hospital. The result is an ethereal experience. It reminds of us that these were real people who chose to uproot themselves from their homes to seek out a better future. A better future they hoped awaited them in the USA. Their dreams built a nation.
JR implanted the faces of 19 Syrian refugees onto the original images. That this deception goes unnoticed should be cause for alarm. That human beings in crisis are interchangeable in the eyes of those who are not should worry us all.
For Ellis Island Immigration Hard Hat Tour information: http://statuecruises.com
For further reading:
Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom by Stephen Wilkes
For more images: firstname.lastname@example.org