Alan Michelson, Finding Art at a Young Age
Alan Michelson is a very skilled artist who has been making works that tell stories about places, memories, and the lives of Native Americans in North America for almost thirty years. His one-of-a-kind style of art, especially his mixed-media video displays, is meant to bring attention to stories that are often forgotten because of the effects of European settlement in the Americas.
Early Alan Michelson Adventures in Art
A beautiful home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is where Alan Michelson took his first art class when he was seven years old. That’s when he fell in love with art. The class and the museum’s amazing things made him think of new ideas. Alan’s art became a mix of nature, place, and history.
The Study of Art and a Change in Focus
Alan Michelson first went to Columbia University after high school, but later switched to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (SMFA), which is part of Tufts University. He earned his BFA there in 1981. Even though his time at SMFA helped him get started in his career, he later learned that it didn’t expose him to the site-specific installation and critical art that would later define his style.
Making his own way as an artist
In spite of this, Alan’s path changed when, in the 1980s, he began making big, encrusted, realistic canvases that were affected by artists such as Anselm Kiefer. When he got back to New York, his work stood out from both new art styles and Native American art of the time. He was a unique artist because he focused on land, site, and surfacing memories. Galleries noticed this and helped him start his career.
The Always Present Link to Place
Alan’s deep link to the land and recognition of place are always present in his art. His work focuses on keeping places alive rather than making new ones, and it digs deep into the continent’s rich past before people came there. Even though Turtle Island’s landscapes have changed, his link to them shows his deep connection to Indigenous culture.
The work “Mespat” is a mix of video, sculpture, and painting.
Alan’s first video piece that was based on time was “Mespat,” which he made in 2001. The video was shown on a screen made of white turkey feathers as part of this big installation. The video moved along a 3.5-mile stretch of Newtown Creek in New York City. The Lenape people called this area “Mespat.” Even though it looked like a dream, the work showed how European rule hurt the environment in a harsh way.
Art as Alchemy: Projecting Images on Found Objects
Alan’s unique method involves projecting pictures onto things that have been found or changed, like a bust of George Washington or three tons of oyster shells. He doesn’t have any official training in sound or video, but he thinks of his work as pure alchemy. Alan thinks that video art is surprising and moving because it is based on photography and has energetic qualities like colored light and sound waves.
Art as a Strong Language
Alan Michelson thinks that art can tell complex, powerful stories that move people on a deep level. His work helps people remember American history by putting light on stories that are too often hidden by things like colonization, capitalism, and patriarchal structures.
Alan Michelson’s artistic journey shows how art can connect people to the land, tell stories that haven’t been told before, and make people feel strong feelings. He keeps adding to the rich weave of Indigenous stories and challenging common ideas about history with his own unique way of doing things.