Shine On, You Crazy Polyhedron: John Foster at Gamut Gallery

Shine On, You Crazy Polyhedron: John Foster at Gamut Gallery

Published July 28th, 2019 by Juleana Enright

The artist behind these kaleidoscopic wonders talks about material, identity, and the importance of failure when you're looking for beauty.


When I arrive at Gamut Gallery to meet John Foster, he’s in the corner of the room taking a time lapse of one of his most iconic pieces, Me, Myself, My Sparkle Table. It’s a table made with dichroic acrylic, one of Foster’s signature materials, and is adorned on top with three icosahedrons, twenty-sided polyhedra. A type of iridescent plastic, dichroic acrylic changes color depending on your angle thanks to its mirror-like rainbow finish — in other words, turning the gallery into a kaleidoscope. As the sun hits the table, light refracts around the room in such a spectacular way, we’re both mesmerized for a second. 

“I haven’t been in the gallery at this time of day to see it do this,” Foster explains. It feels like a chromatic portal. Over the course of our interview, I take probably six videos of this piece, one for every time the natural hard sunlight bathes over it. And yet there’s this magical, transcendent element that can only be captured in person, a minuscule change that happens each instance. Projections filter light into multicolored harmony, activating optical vibrations that the screen just can’t properly capture.

Seeing this collection in person — a body of work he refers to as “interdimensional quilting” — calls to mind the Infinity Mirror Rooms produced by Yayoi Kusama, an artist Foster references in our conversation. From peep-show-esque channels to multimedia installations, Kusama creates kaleidoscopic environments which challenge the viewer to step into an illusion of time and space. This central theme of utilizing time, space, light, and materials to create a moment is unmistakable in Shimmer, Foster’s first solo exhibition, which explores the sculptural synergy and visual context surrounding those concepts. 

I sat down with the artist to talk about the creation of Shimmer and how his work taps into synesthesia on a universal level. 

Me, Myself, My Sparkle Table; Dichro acrylic, glass; 35 x 30 x 36"; 2019 

Juleana Enright: Shimmer integrates your more well-known kaleidoscope polyhedra sculptures and signature iridescent geometric pieces with a completely new body of work, the “Chromaflora Botanical” collection. What drew you to unite these series? 

John Foster: The process for making the kaleidoscopic polyhedra is extensive and a bit oppressive. Adhering to geometric truths and tolerances requires a certain degree of creative problem solving, but doesn’t lend itself to a high degree of intuitive flow. I wanted to make things that would come to exist a bit more gesturally, with immediacy as the catalyst. A more organic approach produced familiar forms, visually engaging a conversation about growth and life. 

JE: You use very specific material in your sculptures. How did you discover this material and how does it speak to your practice?

JF: I use materials to activate the eye. Polarized films, adhesives, resins, employed to achieve dynamic, iridescent, reflective projections of light. I am playing with the idea of transmutation, trying to keep my hand out of the work. I want my art to appear as if it was generated by something other, following specific parameters to establish continuity of form and content. 

JE: Your work centers around creating experiential sculptures that play with space, light, and motion. What drew you to these themes and how does it relate to your personal identity? 

JF: I try to consider how our identities are formed interdimensionally, how our experiences are different and also the same. It’s important for me to make things that are accessible to everyone, to distill complex ideas into portals of understanding. The Esometric Window screenprint series is an illustration of inward reflection, a depiction of infinite potential of self. 

Triacontahedron Esometric Window, 4- color screen print, Limited Edition of 50, 16" x 20", 2019

JE: Your work intersects fine art with a variety of mind-expanding theories: from quantum physics to tactile synesthesia, chromatherapy to stereographic projection. People spend their careers studying these interdimensional planes. How do you approach creating in a way that’s both visually and intellectually palpable to you and accessible to be explored by your audience?

JF: The first step is to make the ugliest things possible, to study the material, to find failure and strength. It is a physical and emotional relationship with materials and ideas. I am chasing a visceral understanding of concepts, trusting the process and rewarding the curious observer.

JE: Can you describe the moment when you first made the connection that you wanted to produce something more organically alive, like your “house plants/succulents” creations? 

JF: I have generally been interested in taking mundane utilitarian objects and emphasizing their value as symbols or benchmarks in our development as a whole. When I first made life-like simulations, I became even more interested in how and why these objects and symbols resonate. 

JE: We’ve talked before about “happy accidents,” which can be inspiring or the bane of existence for artists. How do you use your “happy accidents” to continue to be experimental in your work? 

JF: I really love and hate happy accidents. There really are no accidents — everything is an opportunity for understanding. I like to call myself a Pretengineer. The process of finding out why and what materials do is magical to me. I keep a lot of notes on what forces influence certain effects, and try to do things in a way that I can replicate, building a repertoire of techniques and makers of language/vocabulary.   

JE: You’re very intentional about the names for your pieces. You name things “what they are.” Can you give an example of one of those instances for this exhibit? 

JF: I am interested in paradox and self-reference. I try to make art that exists in this kind of space. An example is the piece titled Luciferus Simulacra Divinorum, which is a nod to Brancusi’s sleeping head series. Materials have meaning, and the way they are manipulated can impart feeling. This piece plays with foreground/background, displays tension and balance with high contrast of texture, while relating to human form on a 1-1 scale. It’s a light bringing simulation of divine reflection. 

LSD (Luciferus Simulacra Divinorum); hand-formed dichro aluminum, gypsum, glass; 8 x 8 x 6"; 2019 

JE: What makes your work so dynamic in person is that you get a sense of playful interaction. To understand what’s there (the visual projections), the viewer has to understand what isn’t so obviously seen — the negative space between an object; the chromatic harmony. How would you say that translates into the concept of chromatherapy and why people might be drawn to your work?

JF: I would argue the viewer doesn’t need to understand much to feel the magic of this seemingly chaotic color combination. Because the work requires our witnessing of changing light conditions and perspective, we never see the same piece twice. The color combinations are a result of mathematical harmony; it’s as natural as it seems artificial. The photos of the work don’t show all of the colors in the spectrum, in fact — many of the blues and violets the work produces we see only in certain natural phenomena, like bubbles and butterfly wings. The idea that these are not pigments is interesting to me, that our perception and optical physiology is what allows us to see these certain wavelengths. 

JE: What practices or meditations do you use to challenge yourself to step outside of the linear box? 

JF: I love to make “warm up” work that is never destined to be in front of anyone. Sometimes I set a timer for one hour, and try to make as many things as possible in this time. This is simply an exercise to get the mind working in a creative way. 

JE: How does beauty, space, and art unite for you? 

JF: When I can blur the line between these ideas, I feel like I made a successful piece. Space is only something we cannot see, but it can be manipulated to show beauty, and this becomes an object of Art. 

The artist, the art, and the sun at work.

Shimmer is on view now at Gamut Gallery with an Exhibit Finale Dance Performance on Thursday, August 22nd. For more info, visit

Banner image: Medium Dodecahedron, Dichro acrylic, 5 x 6 x 6", 2019. Images courtesy of Gamut Gallery.




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