Jacob Rauscher leads me up to the second floor studio of his house to show me two unfinished paintings that he's working on more or less simultaneously. One shows a man reclining on a chair facing forward, sitting for a portrait. The other, a man leading a horse through a forest of books.
The figures in both paintings are Rauscher's father, an avid equestrian as well as a prodigious reader who read everything from the collected works of Charles Dickens to Harry Potter. And they'll be part of Rauscher's upcoming show, Signals Intercepted, at Two-Thirds Studio, which will include recent paintings, mixed media, printmaking and sculpture by the Herron grad.
"On a personal level what the show is about me trying to reconcile my ideological bearings with momentous events that have happened in my life," says Rauscher, 33. "When my father passed in 2009 I had a son come into the world within the same year."
Rauscher's father, who worked for many years as the plant manager at the Stewart-Warner manufacturing facility in Tell City, Ind., continued to be a presence in Jacob's life even after his death.
"I carried on conversations with my father the same way I did in my head when he was alive. And when I'd see him in my dreams, it's very much as if he were real," says Rauscher. "Often I'd wake up thinking that he's still there."
Just like his father, Rauscher is phenomenally well-read. One writer in particular, the French theorist and philosopher Michel Foucault, has been very influential on Rauscher's "ideological bearings" as well as his work. Foucault wrote that dreams are not the product of the imagination, but the source.
"For me, the concreteness of reality is a malleable thing," says Rauscher. "So the show talks about the perception of reality and reconciling that with events in my life."
Another influence on Rauscher is the Greek philosopher Socrates, particularly his analogy of the cave as described in Plato's Republic. In describing his show, however, Rauscher draws a more contemporary analogy - one straight out of the Internet era - reflecting a historical moment supersaturated with electronic signals.
"When you think about what your existence is and what reality is you're actually intercepting a signal from reality," he says.
Rauscher's first solo show, mounted in July 2010 at Sydney Webb's short-lived Wake Gallery, consisted mostly of photolithographic prints. At that time, he had just graduated from the Herron School of Art & Design with a degree in printmaking.
His upcoming show will feature a more diverse collection of work. Most of his oil paintings in the show contain elements of monotype printmaking and/or collage. A translucent box - lighted from within and containing a multi-colored image of a human brain - is the centerpiece of the room. Both the box and several of his paintings are bisected by cords, which, in the glow of multi-colored lights, cast their shadowy signals on the gallery walls.
"The cords are made of silicone," Rauscher says. "I improvised a method of injecting them into tension molds I made from hard rubber tubing."
Rauscher is working on the show in the spare moments between his day job as a flooring/construction contractor and taking care of his 3-year-old son Noah. He lives on the Near Eastside, close to the Woodruff Place neighborhood where he grew up.
"As soon as the son goes to bed I'm up until four in the morning and then up again at seven," he says. "Things are a little ragged around here right now."