‘Immigrants’…is a word that has always been loaded with a meaning and weight beyond the dry dictionary definition. The word is a weapon, a political pawn, a tabloid headline, to the point that one might forget that we are dealing with human beings. – Sarah Ball
Welsh artist Sarah Ball researches historical photographic archives for her small portraits painted on wood panels. For the Immigrants series, Ball sourced the subjects for her paintings from photographs made by a registry clerk working at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1925. The untrained photographer captured the newly arrived immigrants facing forward, their piercing eyes staring directly at the viewer. Ball’s delicately painted portraits amplify the vulnerability of the figures and hint at their personal history. In Immigrant: Dutch the woman’s soft features and rosy cheeks are offset by a singular piece of period clothing that makes her unique – a bonnet framed by intricately patterned lace. The individuality on display contrasts with the anonymous nature of the title, where nothing but her national origin is noted.