Betsy Ashton, a former correspondent for CBS, is also a talented artist. For more than fifteen years, she has painted commissioned oil portraits. But the maligning of immigrants and refugees since the 2016 election compelled her instead to seek out, paint, and tell the stories of the immigrants that she saw to show how they are an asset to our country.
Ashton set out to interview immigrants from different continents, religions, and cultures to show America and the world their true character and contributions.
Her new exhibition, “Portraits of Immigrants: Unknown Faces, Untold Stories,” is on display at Trinity Church in Princeton through Easter.
“Immigrants from everywhere are all around me in New York City; the subway alone captures every gene pool on the planet. Using journalism skills honed in my prior career as a CBS News correspondent, plus my talents as a visual artist, I interviewed and painted people from a variety of countries and cultures, who were not born here but chose to come to this country, or were brought here as children, seeking safety or freedom or opportunity or all of the above,” Ashton said.
“The immigrants I see work hard – extremely hard – to support their families here and, in some cases, also abroad,” Ashton said. “I want the viewing public to better understand who these people are, what they have sacrificed to come here, what living here means to them, and what contributions they have made to their adopted country. I believe that the viewers will discover kindred spirits who are in their hearts as American as they are.”
Some of the immigrants featured in her exhibition include: Porez Luxama, a teacher and community leader from Haiti whose family was exiled during a coup d’état when he was a teenager; Maria Salomé, a housekeeper from Guatemala
whose husband abandoned her with their five children in Guatemala; Rekha Singh, a teacher from India whose father left his village in India to become a veterinarian and brought his daughter to the U.S. when she was nine; and Laura Garcia, a DACA recipient from Mexico whose parents fled crime in Mexico City for a safe new life in New York State where they worked in factories for two years before sending for 8-year-old Laura and her younger brother.
Trinity Church is located at 33 Mercer Street in Princeton. The exhibit can be viewed most days between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information about the exhibition, visit Ashton’s website, portraitsofimmigrants.com.