Sarah Ramos is presenting a retrospective, “Autograph Hound.”
“I’m really excited about it, because I feel like I have so many different projects…with the internet, everything can feel really fractured, and I’m excited to present them as being thematically similar,” said the actress.
It’s an art show showcasing elements of her life, playing with her image, her person and persona. Though she’s just 30 years old, she’s been in the business for two decades, starting out as a child actress. She appeared on a series of TV shows before landing her breakout role in 2010 as Haddie Braverman on the NBC drama “Parenthood” for five years.
“I just was obsessed with Hollywood and wanted to be a part of it any way I could,” she said of her younger self.
Fascinated by celebrity, she, like so many young girls of her generation, was a fan of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. At 10, she persuaded her parents to take her on a cruise hosted by the twins. The trip, heading to the Bahamas, had been advertised on a VHS tape.
“I like to think of that as what sparked me wanting to act,” said Ramos, with a smile, of the experience. “It was my first photo that I took with a celebrity. And it was the first moment that bridged the gap between being, like, ‘I don’t have to be separated from celebrities by a screen. We can be in the same place. We can be on the same boat. We can be in photos together.’ And that was intoxicating.”
But it also raises “a lot of existential questions,” she went on. “Families paying to go on this vacation with celebrities…Why would somebody do this? Why would my parents agree?”
The photo she took with the Olsens is on exhibit at the show, alongside many other photographs she’s taken with celebrities through the years.
“I think part of the exhibit is posing these questions, asking what inspires us to take photos with celebrities?” she said. “We put people on pedestals and interrupt strangers in public to get these keepsakes. What inspires people to do that, to embarrass ourselves like that? But in my case, I mean, I’ve definitely done some introspection about it.”
As a child, “I think they were honestly status symbols,” she added. “I think I thought famous people were important and that by standing next to a famous person, I would be important, which is bizarre and ironic, because by taking a picture of the famous person, you’re implying that you’re not on their same level.”
She became more self-aware with age, she said, “I was like, ‘These are embarrassing. Why was I doing this? That doesn’t make me look cool.’ And then, it’s gone into this ironic space. Like, ‘Haha, imagine seriously wanting a photo with celebrities, how ridiculous,’ and sharing them and laughing at them.”
During the pandemic, she began filming videos reenacting film scenes — those are on display as well, as are clips of her real-life auditions. They’re all self-tapes for roles she didn’t end up getting. The entirety lends a unique perspective on pop culture, celebrity and fandom.
“I grew up obsessed with and infatuated by and mesmerized by the smoke and mirrors,” said Ramos, who grew up in Orange County before relocating to L.A. “And that had its counterpart, which was, you know, confusion, disappointment, mixing up the fantasy with reality…I’m really interested in the star-making machine and how we create these narratives.”
Pausing, she added, “I think that tension has influenced a lot of the work that’s in the show, because it is really heady and hard to articulate.”
It’s the last weekend to see the show at pop-up museum Thnk 1994, located at 603 South Brand Blvd. in Glendale, Calif. Open from noon to 6 p.m., it closes Sunday.