Artist Simone Leigh Wants To Heal Black Women w/ New Exhibit
New York artist Simone Leigh has a new exhibition at the New Museum that pays homage to the work of the Black Panther Party, while emphasizing the importance of self care with natural remedies.
The Waiting Room exhibit explores an African American, female vision of healthcare, highlighting herbalism and other alternatives to addictive (and often times harmful) pharmaceutical pills. The exhibit was inspired by Esmin Elizabeth Green, a 49-year-old woman who died waiting for assistance at the Kings County hospital center in Brooklyn. Green had fallen out of her chair and died on the floor from blood clots that moved from her legs to her lungs. A surveillance video shows the entire sequence of events, with security guards walking past her as she lays motionless.
"Obedience is one of the main threats to black women's health; it was a survival mechanism that Green waited 24 hours before collapsing," Leigh explained in an interview with The Guardian. "What happened to Green is an example of the lack of empathy people have towards the pain of black women."
In Green's honor Leigh has included a public health healing center in her exhibit that will include a six-week herbalism course, massage sessions and a series of health and wellness lectures. "These types of things would have helped prevent Esmin Green from working herself to death," Leigh said. "It's about cultivating a lifestyle that is more self-supporting."
Prior to this Leigh had brought free healthcare to Brooklyn through her Free People's Medical Clinic, which she created in 2014. For those that can't afford the gallery's $20 fee Leigh will be hosting private workshops as part of a project called the Waiting Room Underground.
As one might guess the name alludes to a society of black female nurses that dates back to the Underground Railroad. "We will be hosting these workshops when the museum is closed — there won't be any spectatorship; no photography or video," she stated. "This is a longstanding tradition of continuing your work underground when you're not allowed to do it in public. I don't feel like I'm doing anything new. It's just different because it's in an art context."
Acknowledging a part of history that often goes undiscussed while also encouraging positive means of self-care, The Waiting Room is just as important as it is necessary. If you're in New York (or will be) between now and September 18, you should definitely check out Leigh's latest exhibit.