Mischievous is the best way to describe the work of Sofie Ramos, a pioneer of  immersive installations, as she creates a record of time with frenetic combinations at the intersection of paint, sculpture, performance, and colorful diligence.

One moment with Sofie reveals her wildly unique mind, which seems connected to more dimensions than three. She animates the inanimate, empowering objects to lead the conversation, transforming perspectives with unexpected plot twists. “It’s kind of like Frankenstein,” she explains.

Kristin Farr: What have been your biggest wrestling matches in the studio lately, and what’s been a recent big breakthrough?
Sofie Ramos: I’m still working on how to make objects levitate, but I have recently been able to bring them to life through a sound collaboration in an installation in Fort Mason’s Guardhouse.

Tell me about that project.
It’s definitely a big one, but the Guardhouse is a very small space, so small that viewers are only permitted to see and hear it from the structure’s four windows. It's called Space To Breathe, and the installation itself is similar to many of my recent pieces, but feels very much at home in this compact and contained context. There are elements that extend to the outside as well, including painted paths coming out of the windows and door, and a giant fence painting covering an electric transformer across the driveway.

over and over and over and over and under 2

What are the weirdest objects you’ve worked with lately? Can you come to my garage for sourcing materials? I have hella mystical junk to offload.
Cotton balls dipped in latex paint are really my jam right now. Also very into painting towels and bath mats, especially those crazy microfiber tentacled ones. Mystical junk is not really on my radar, but I am in the market for old appliances—preferably functioning. But if it’s cute, I am open—furniture and home decor, like rugs, blinds, curtains, lamps, etc. I am a huge hoarder and will gladly come take some shit off your hands.

Last time we talked about your work, you said you don’t mind it being related to the feminine and domestic.
Photos of my installations don’t really scream feminine or domestic. The interpretation is definitely more often playful, childlike or whimsical, but, in person, the household materials and objects start to become more recognizable. And even if they aren’t explicitly identifiable to the viewer, it is important to me to source my materials from the domestic sphere and keep this theme in the work. It’s maybe less about femininity than domesticity, though. Like domestic animals more than domestic housewives, though femininity is part of the work in discreet ways, as well. I’m interested in the enclosed space of comfort and safety that also becomes a space of confinement and anxiety. And also a space that is alive both alongside and apart from the human drama that takes place in it.

all my eggs

What part of art-making is therapeutic for you?
I think it’s the very tangible experience of building up an environment around myself that is therapeutic, spreading out and taking up space, making a mess and somehow bringing it all together into something I haven’t seen before. I love transforming the mundane into the magical and liberating defunct objects and spaces.

Weren’t you altering books into sea creatures recently? Tell me about that project. It sounded like a real Bay Area creative collaboration.
Yes, they were kind of starting to look like sea creatures. I was stuffing the painted cotton balls into the books and other sculptural elements were dipped in paint like confetti, bows, candles, a sock, a washcloth, a thong. It was a very small part of Stephanie Syjuco’s #AddedValueProject at SFMOMA. In addition to Stephanie’s “radically-reorganized” public book sale in the lobby of the museum (so good!), she asked me and seven other badass Bay Area artists to transform used books into art objects and sell them at the “Re-valuation Station,” with all sales proceeds going to the San Francisco Public Library—over $20,000! It was really amazing and so fun, and I was honored to be a part of it.

sofie ramos artist photo 2

I can’t wait until you turn out a giant museum rotunda, or a whole house. What’s your dream location? Underwater?
Probably not underwater, though I wouldn’t mind trying. I think the work is less about any one perfect space, and more about getting into as many spaces as possible and adapting to the limitations of each. But I would love to make a treehouse that sits outside, on top of, or tucked into the exterior architecture of New York MoMA, like a nest but in the shape of a little house with my installation inside. I would also design the house, paint it, and add elements extending beyond the containing structure. I always like to imagine my work at MoMA in New York just for consistency, but any major dreamy museum would suffice.

Tell me about a moment where your work helped you make an unexpected connection.
Pretty much constantly at every install for every show, when people come up to talk to me to figure out what is going on. They are mostly not “art world” people, or they are kids attracted to the bright colors and the transformation of the space. It’s always a positive interaction, and I’m glad my art involves a deep connection with a space and the people in and around it.

over and over and over and over and under from Sofie Ramos on Vimeo.

Do you listen to music when you work or just make your own sound effects?
I like listening to music and getting pumped up, especially during the really physical parts of the work, but I’m also down to zone out and just soak up the sounds of the process. Sometimes I have to let in the silence to hear the voices of the objects and spaces. I loved working in the Guardhouse with the sound of objects and really feeling like the space was talking to itself and to me.

Can you work around other people?
That depends on their proximity and how distracting other people might be. I prefer to work around other artists who are also focused and in their own space. I definitely love having friends around for the smoke breaks. I call my objects imaginary friends, but it’s nice to talk to humans once in a while to stay somewhat sane. I think with the move into performance and animation of my spaces, my installation process might also become more social and collaborative.

space to breathe 2

Where’s your focus right now? Do you still shoot the timelapse videos of your installations developing and transforming?

I’m still trying to keep up the video practice, but I think one of the biggest, or at least the newest focus, is animating the space and objects in real time through sound and performance as well as kinetic sculptural elements and possibly very controlled or contained audience interaction.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue. Sofie’s Fort Mason Guardhouse was on view in San Francisco through December 31, 2018, and her Sandbox installation at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art opens February 23, 2019.