I was commissioned to do this painting a few years back by a collector of mine. He told me about his grandfather who came over from Hungry in 1907. He was one of the million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island that year. He was very young and had very little. Starting out in this country as a Barber he became a very wealthy man. Jim wanted me to do a painting as a tribute to his grandfather and to show his appreciation for what America has done for his family. I knew this painting would be the culmination of everything I’ve ever wanted to say as an artist. It would have feeling, emotion and drama. It would be a painting about people, about their hopes, their dreams, and their courage.
I began reading and doing research. Trying to find a concept. The more I read the more emotionally involved I became. What interested me most was the Registry Room, or “Great Hall” as it was called. My wife, Carole, convinced me that in order to do this painting the way I wanted, I would have to visit Ellis Island, and as it turned out, she was right. My secretary called the Park Service at Ellis Island and after explaining what I was doing, we were able to get special permission to visit. At the time it was in the process of renovation and was closed to the public. They allowed me to explore through the back rooms and areas that most people don't get to see, they were pretty run down at the time. Alone and to myself, I placed my hands on the walls and felt the spirit of this great place, it was a special day for me.
While walking up the stairs from the baggage room, I tried to imagine the feelings and emotions they must have felt going up those stairs to the “Great Hall”. All there hopes and dreams for the future and at the same time, the intense fear of being sent back.
I worked on this painting off and on for three years and felt as if I was living in the "Great Hall".