Mespat, 2001. Alan Michelson (Mohawk), b. 1953. Digital video with sound, turkey feathers, monofilament, and steel cable. Sound: Michael J. Schumacher. Museum purchase, 2006 (26/5774).

Mespat takes its name from a Lenape word meaning “bad water place.” The work is a meditation on the Native people, displaced by European colonists in 1642, who once lived near the now heavily polluted Newtown Creek, an urban estuary running between Brooklyn and Queens and the site of a major oil spill in the 1950s. In this video work—his first—Michelson pans the three-and-a-half-mile shoreline of the creek, drawing inspiration from the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School and a pre-cinematic entertainment known as painted moving panoramas, both popular in the mid 19th century.

Alan Michelson (Mohawk, b. 1953) addresses North American geography, history, and identity in his mixed media installations. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, at venues including the New Museum, National Gallery of Canada, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Michelson’s Third Bank of the River, commissioned for the new U.S. Land Port of Entry in Massena, New York, was recognized as one of the year’s best public artworks by the Americans for the Arts 2010 Public Art Year in Review. Michelson is the 2011 Invited Artist/Fellow of the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art. He lives in New York City and teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Vantage Point: The Contemporary Native Art Collection

The National Museum of the American Indian
NMAI on the National Mall | Washington, DC