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From Fiberglass to Fingernails : Sculptor's show reflects her love of materials that she can sew, hammer and mold.

March 31, 1995|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times.

WOODLAND HILLS — We can't get away from our childhoods. Sometimes this is a good thing.

Los Angeles artist Jacqueline Dreager was born into a family of special-effects experts. Her father and two uncles worked for, among others, movie legend Cecil B. DeMille.

"I grew up in my garage with my father, not with my mother at the sewing machine," Dreager said. "My uncle gave me tips on how to use fiberglass that you could never learn in school."

To this day, fiberglass and resin are her "materials of choice," she said, "although I am seduced by just about any material that I can incise, sew, form, fold, stack, pack, stretch, rivet, cast, hammer, mold, saw and . . . "

One can get a good sense of what she's been doing with her favorite materials over the past seven years with the Pierce College Art Gallery show "Sculpture by Jacqueline Dreager." From the 1988 sombrero-like "Tumbleweed Tear" in bronze to the 1995 megaphone-shaped "His / Hers (Dressed to Kill)" of fiberglass, plastic, artificial fingernails and fur, Dreager presents 12 sculptures that delightfully resonate with the paradoxes of life.

"Tumbleweed Tear" is made of strong metal yet it still has an airy quality, a feeling that a gust of wind might blow it down the road. The spiffy "His / Hers" pokes some fun at male nature and female adornments.

"I'm using materials in a playful way," said the Pierce College alumna of her most recent work. "My pieces are very dual--masculine and feminine. Someone called them bisexual. I'm also concerned with the formal aspects of the pieces. I think they have to have looks as well as content."

"She casts from manufactured parts, with her own interests in the imagery," said gallery director Joan Kahn, referring to Dreager's use of such things as airplane nose cones and radar guards as molds for her sculptures. "There's this combination of what we make for utilitarian purposes that echoes our own biological needs. There's a sexual aspect to her work.

"In many ways, these (sculptures) seem to be about some other form of life--microscopic and / or extraterrestrial."

The pod shape of the simple, elegant "Black Beauty" (1990) occurs in several pieces. Dreager said it reminds her of the movie "Cocoon," which she loved, and the idea of rejuvenation.

The pod can "hold so much. It's able to give you more than you've got," she said, metaphorically speaking. Although she still likes the "plainness" of her earlier pod works, her recent works, such as "His / Hers," take some liberties with the form as well as embellish it. "I wanted to use the pods and extend their life more."

Dreager also makes changes to her old pieces. "I like to give them different lives," she said. She altered the pod-shaped, fiberglass and stainless-steel "Pom Pom de Blanc" (1994). Once black, it is now white. It owes its title to a type of mushroom. Dreager hunts wild mushrooms, cooks them and eats them.

As time goes by, Dreager will sometimes change the titles of pieces too. "I change them according to what is going on with my life," she said. "Why do I have to stick to the same old titles?"

Despite a change of heart, she did not rename her 1990 bronze "Catch and Release," an homage to her passion for fishing.

"I was into catching and releasing, now I'm into catching and eating them," she said.

Nature modified the fiberglass and steel "Natural Cone" (1990) that has been in her yard for some time. "It's changed colors and gotten more natural from the sunlight," she said.

Dreager elevates and cherishes nature in the 1989 "On Berenice." A bronze base supports the beautiful wood of walnut trees cut down to make room for "ugly houses" near her 1908 Craftsman-style house, she said. "I saved all the wood I could and made pieces out of it."

In contrast, man, woman and machine are at the center of the fiberglass and leather "She Drives a Porsche" (although Dreager doesn't). Two cone-like structures jut out from the wall, one almost completely covered in leather, the other with a just a strip of leather across it. Dreager was motivated to make this piece by the leather "bras" that some Porsche drivers attach to the front of their cars.

"My father has had over 100 cars. He had a Porsche," she said. "It's such a sexy car and then to have the bra on it," she said, as if to say, "How could they?" Regarding her sculptural expression of this deed though, she said, "it works aesthetically, which is pleasing to me, and it has all that other content to it. I think it's more seductive when a beautiful piece also has something to say."

Where and When

What: "Sculpture by Jacqueline Dreager."

Location: Pierce College Art Gallery, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Ends April 6.

Call: (818) 719-6498.

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