Simone Leigh’s The Waiting Room: Art That Tries to Heal Black Women’s Pain

Simone Leigh’s The Waiting Room: Art That Tries to Heal Black Women’s Pain


The artist’s new exhibition pays tribute to Esmin Elizabeth Green, who died on the floor of a New York City hospital, by presenting an alternative vision of the US healthcare system

On 19 June 2008, 49-year-old Esmin Elizabeth Green died in the waiting room of Kings County hospital center in Brooklyn. She had been waiting 24 hours to see a doctor, fell out of her chair, and died on the floor from blood clots that moved from her legs to her lungs. A surveillance video shows security guards walking past her as she lies motionless in the waiting room. A nurse checked her pulse 30 minutes after she died.

Simone Leigh’s practice is an object-based on-going exploration of black female subjectivity. She creates sculpture, videos and installations informed by her interest in African art, ethnographic research, feminism and performance. Leigh received the 2013 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award. She is a Creative Capital Grantee (2012) and a recipient of the LMCC Michael Richards award (2012). Leigh has been awarded the 2011 Joan Mitchell Foundation grant for Sculpture; The artist-in-residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2010–11; The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace program, Bronx Museum’s Artist AIM program, the Art Matters research grant and the New York Foundation for The Arts Fellowship for Sculpture.

Eight years on, the New York artist Simone Leigh pays homage to Green in a new exhibition at the city’s New Museum called The Waiting Room. “Obedience is one of the main threats to black women’s health; it was a survival mechanism that Green waited 24 hours before collapsing,” says Leigh. “What happened to Green is an example of the lack of empathy people have towards the pain of black women.”


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