Interview: Nikolas Goodich

I was absolutely blown away when I walked up to your piece. Actually, you've got a couple pieces around here. They strike you with the elements of—it's all here. 

I don't feel it in my body, but I'm immediately taken to my headspace. Walk me through some of these pieces. What was the intention that you wanted to get through these works?

Well, these are part of a series called Double Inverted Portraits. I’m using the symbol of the profile of the face. As you can see, in the piece right behind you, if you turn all the way around, you see it right behind you. You can see these faces, right? And they’re inverted, right? So I’m using this symbol. We all obviously have a face, right—our face—and our face is the center of us, right? That’s the center of our being, really. Yeah, we have a body. Yeah, we work out or we changed our body in some way, but our face is our face. 

It’s how we all look at each other. It’s in our eyes, right? So like in this piece, you have the eye and then you have the energy that’s flowing out of the eye—or is it flowing into the eye? So, in physics, there’s this amazing thing called the light tunnel. The photons come out of the world, right out of the sun and they bounce off and around…or they come out of light bulbs, they bounce off of surfaces, and then the photons go into your eyeball. No person shares photons with anyone else. 

So the photons that I’m seeing are mine. The photons that you see are yours. So there’s this thing called the light tunnel and that’s the channeling of light down into your eyes. So when we perceive the world, which is that’s what we are doing the whole time, we are basically perceiving objects, and that’s part of what art is. This is heady shit, excuse my French.

I love how the art has this recursive content. There’s the face, there’s my face, there’s the eyes carrying the light and looking at the light. And then there’s the eyes looking at the light, then you have this patterning—in physics it’s called the Planck length. The Planck length is the smallest distance that humans can measure. We cannot measure below the Planck length. In quantum physics, there’s the Planck length, and below the Planck length is something called cosmic foam, quantum foam. This is like quantum foam, these patterns and these textures, the abstraction—they’re like quantum foam. And so the frequencies that you see being represented in this pattern are like the quantum foam having a structure.

Symmetry in physics is just like symmetry in art. It’s about looking at how molecules imitate one another and echo one another. You’ve got protons, you’ve got antiprotons, just like you’ve got a me and a you. We’ve got this paradox between objects, right? I’m trying to reflect that in my work, all those different levels of meaning and all those different levels of content within the work. And that’s just the beginning. I can feel it in such a visceral way. And again, it’s sort of acknowledging the way in which we’re seeing things and perceiving things. There’s a lot of this subjectivity. That’s it—the objective fact of subjectivity. 

So the paradox that’s inherent in the objective fact of subjectivity is absolutely what my work is about. So, if you see this painting, here, the title of this painting is, Am I me, Am I You, or are We We? You have this person here looking into the painting, and then there’s this second person inverted, and there’s this question, ‘am I looking in a mirror, or is the mirror upside down?’ And then there’s the thing about neurology, where your eye, when you look at things—everything really is upside down. So there’s that, but then you have this, where there’s two faces.


In Ancient Greece, Janus is the god of time—past, present, and future personified. This image of looking into the past and looking into the future. So in this regard, it is literally us. You have your past and your future. I have my past and my future. But right now we’re bonding and sharing and communicating. So this painting is like an essay about all the things I was talking about before, but it’s also about this connection that we have and the idea of like you said, we just joined the objectives together—objective subjectivities, basically.

It’s a paradox. It’s not rhetorical, it’s real. It’s a real paradox—it’s not just an idea that there’s the individual and then there’s the other, but that then there’s the fact that we are one entity, really, one biological entity on the planet. It’s content, and a dialogue, that has just begun.

Thank you for being someone who I can communicate this to. It means something.

What we aim to do is try and distill some of that information in a way that definitely gives you more context—but also breaks down some barriers for how people can actually enjoy the piece.

There’s that raw sense of just loving this color. I mean, that’s why I love light. It gives and gives and gives, right? This has so much warmth and it’s like a food. Think about movies, think about that it’s an archetype in our culture, the projection booth with the light on the wall. That’s Plato. It’s Plato’s cave—there’s this dream of vision that can feed us, that gives us content and ideas, and that’s what art really is. I mean, look at all this work. I love art, period. I love art so much. I don’t love all art—but there is so much art. That content you were just talking about, that’s so important, because for so many people, that is what they yearn for, to really find that beauty— just the simple appreciation of the content.

The content and the context really breathes life into each other through these conversations and through these experiences.

Exactly, because art is half about creating a dialogue. And then if you look at the painting—these are my newest works—this is about a dialogue. These are people communicating. These are people sharing, whether they’re kissing or talking—or even if it’s a mirror, even if it’s just looking in a mirror. It’s about a dialogue that people are having. And then you look at this, this is all about people having a dialogue with the work, having a dialogue with each other.