A queer cult figure in the Amsterdam art scene for nearly two decades, Sands Murray-Wassink (b. 1974, Topeka, Kansas. Lives in Amsterdam) is a painter, body artist, writer and perfume collector indebted to various forms and permutations of intersectional feminist and queer art, with artists Carolee Schneemann, Hannah Wilke and Adrian Piper serving as key coordinates. Collecting and archiving have long been key parts of his practice, as they were/are for the artists that have been most influential for him. As Murray-Wassink describes, “Using old work to make new work, as I am doing, is a process and action akin to a snake biting its own tail. This, I feel, is a very healthy way of dealing with the layered situation of being an artist and a person. I call all my work in all mediums SURVIVAL ACCEPTANCE ART and this means there is an attempt to have no hierarchy and no editing. A raw presentation of creativity in sharing that I sincerely hope meets with recognition in others/viewers/a (present and/or future) public and sees this as one step in becoming further legendary—not famous per se, but effective for change in the world now and the worlds yet to come. Humor (a pleasurable survival mechanism of coping) is also an essential part of the serious messages I intend to convey—painted, ‘talking’ horses (which represent freedom and wildness for me) and glamor (forms of femininity) in its various forms are both parts of this exploration.”
In biographical statements, such as this one, Murray-Wassink prefers not to attempt exhaustively listing his (long) performance and presentation history. He explains: “Perhaps I am lazy but writing lists of where one has shown (institutions) is in my case tedious and it leads people to believe that I am an institutional artist. Carolee Schneemann was asked to recommend people for the MacArthur Genius Grant when she was well over halfway through her career in 1999 (when she was 59 or 60 years old). She responded that she herself had never been nominated (!), so she found the invitation very strange… Pay attention to who is saying what and who you really connect with. I have appeared internationally, in St. Petersburg, Bern, Zürich, London, Munich, Vienna, Potsdam / Berlin, Trondheim, Bergen, New York City, Dunkerque, Mechelen, and various places in and around The Netherlands and maybe some others that I am forgetting. This year (2021) I had my first extensive solo presentation in Amsterdam after living and working here since 1994. What does that say? It says that I am somewhat of a hermit and fiercely independent in my stances on art. What I have learned from Carolee is courage, from Hannah spontaneity, and from Adrian rigorousness. I love Eva Hesse, Antonin Artaud, and Forrest Bess. It’s important for me to exist in an historical context. All great art does. I was messy for years as a political and artistic statement, as I felt gay males of my generation were / are still too often sanitized and desexualized and expected to be neat and tidy. Well, I spill out of the box like anybody else (in true organic, mortal form) and like Carolee, when no one was my art historian, my archivist, my curator, my dealer, my agent, my museum director, my collector, I did it ALL myself and did a fairly good job of it as well.”
Murray-Wassink’s work is shown most recently at venues including: Auto Italia, London, 2022; Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao, 2021; Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, 2021; and mistral, Amsterdam, 2021—all as part of ‘Gift Science Archive’ commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution. After studying at the Pratt Institute (1992–94) in Brooklyn where he worked with Schneemann as his teacher, Murray-Wassink moved to the Netherlands in 1994 for an exchange programme at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Following that, he studied at De Ateliers, Amsterdam (1995–96) and, since then, lives and works with his husband Robin and their cats Betsie and (then/now) Duman.