Modernist explores artistic frontiers

Dan Peragine is not one to follow current trends. The sculptor-painter is continually looking for new artistic frontiers to explore.

“I was always beating to my own drum and had my own vision and ideology that I’ve stuck with over the years,” Peragine said, “I never got caught up in post modernism or pop culture, and I’m glad because I’m a modernist.”

The New York native, a digital arts and media instructor at Del Mar’s Winston School, has worked in oils and mixed media since childhood. As a University of Nebraska student in the 1970s, he met California sculptor Dan Whetstone and added sculpting to his skill set.

“That’s how I came upon this monolithic freeform design approach to stone carving,” said Peragine, who learned to carve from one piece of stone, such as marble and alabaster.

In the 1980s, he also became intrigued with the early Constructivist Movement that was active in 1912 pre-revolutionary Russia. Its experimental geometric designs play a pivotal role in Peragine’s modernist pieces.

“The constructivists provided a new way for sculptors to redefine space and form,” he said.

After being exposed to such esoteric ways of creating art, any idea of returning to New York quickly lost its appeal for Peragine. Instead, he began creating his own pieces that focus largely on aesthetics.

“I’m about finding a higher truth and beauty in the world and reminding people through nature and through natural materials,” he said.

After earning a master’s in fine art, Peragine began enhancing the Nebraska landscape with public art projects. In 1982, Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development commissioned him to install a sculpture on Interstate 80 and then awarded him with several more commissions. His designs also graced various corporate institutions and banks throughout the state.

Peragine moved to California in 1989 and began working at the Winston School.

“I like being in California because I think it’s the new frontier - anything that’s really new is going to happen here,” he said.

Peragine excels at designing monumental outdoor constructions out of flat plate steel.

“They look like they’re a monolithic form, but they’re not because they’re flat plates of steel,” he said.

Why does he like working with flat steel plates.

That’s how he ties in his work in with contemporary culture.

“I have a bumper sticker that says the world is flat,” he said. “The earth is round, but everything else is flat because that’s how media is presented -TV is flat, movies are flat, newspapers and all imagery and visual information that people process is flat.”

Peragine is now at work on a 30-inch cardboard model of his new design sculpture, “Trans Personal,” which will feature five or six figures at completion.

“I can paint on it like a three-dimensional painting and propose to build a 10-foot tall sculpture out of marine plywood, so I can move it around,” he said. “It’s about one form in relation to another. The figures are in line and the positive form relates to the opposing form, which is a negative, to complete the figure.”

Ideally, Peragine would like to display his movable sculptures at temporary installation sites, which he would then film as he did in his eight-minute work, “Guardian.”

“In a public art work, the art stays in one place all the time, but I’d like to show my works set in different environments in my short films and set them to different musical scores,” he said.

Currently, Peragine is actively entering public art competitions for sculpture and wall relief treatments.

He last exhibited his work at the Del Mar Art Center Gallery before it lost its exhibit place in Del Mar Plaza. As an advocate for the arts, he hopes that a new venue will soon be found for the gallery and remains optimistic that the City of Del Mar will increase its support for more art programs.

Peragine plans to participate in this fall’s Del Mar Art Walk.

To learn more about Peragine’s work, visit