Deconstructing Sali

Courtesy Sol Art CafeTwo months after the city of Santa Ana denied SaliHeraldez permits for her pristine Sol Art Gallery Caf because her storefront came sans parking spaces, city planners turned around and let a Starbucks open its doors at Fourth and Broadway with—yeah, you guessed it—not a single parking spot.

The city whose water tower is emblazoned with the slogan “Arts, culture and education first”—or, as local wags like to say, “Santa Ana: Education Third”—can't quite figure out how to legally allow the best gallery in town to sell its work and stay a while.

That's okay for us—a Capitalism-free zone where you can still get a gorgeous vanilla cappuccino and only your own karma will know if you made a donation or not, while you sit in a space so art-directed it could be a Wes Anderson interior and play chess beneath Dr. Carole Williams-Gelker's too-appropriate-for-words “Deconstructing Frida.” But it might make it tough for Heraldez to keep making the rent at the gallery and caf where she can sell neither art nor coffee. And that would be a goddamned shame: when I said it was the best gallery in town, I meant it. And while Santa Ana is busy plotting to kick out its Latino businesses in favor of more bland Starbucks and selling out its Artists Village lofts to bored housewives for half a million bones—lofts where the “art” is on the more embarrassing side of the Sawdust Festival—a Latina with an attractive, inviting, glam space done up with a gleaming, kidney-shaped wood bar; Mod eggshell barstools; and white Naugahyde who also has regular offerings of open mics, kids' arts and crafts, poetry and DJs, sprinkling each sentence with references to “the community” while showcasing art that's sophisticated and not sucky—someone, no less, who was born and raised in Santa Ana, who at 29 is young and fresh and enthusiastic and creative, who took money she'd saved for a vacation to furnish the immaculate space, who with four friends spent two months stripping the concrete floors and tinting them with clay until they look like they set her back thousands in a shitty area near the 5 that could actually stand some homegrown gentrification, as opposed to Fourth Street, which is already thriving and really not at all in need of redevelopment, thank you, whitey, well, clearly that is a woman who shouldn't be encouraged.

Someone should challenge the Santa Ana Planning Commission to a duel. Useless fucking dicks.

“Deconstructing Frida”is the ultimate in PoMo Expressionism slathered with the talking cure, with Dr. Carole Williams-Gelker painting small tablets with homages to Kahlo's self-obsession; in Williams-Gelker's hands, in her choppy Expressionist brushstrokes, Kahlo's themes become every woman's themes. Kahlo's fascination with both her own glamour and her own ugliness, her persecution and womanly weakness as well as her morbid focus on her crippled womb are rendered with a straightforward, detached rawness.

Most raw of all is Baby Doll Without Arm and Hand, which coincidentally is also without a head, as it lies in a faceless bundle between the baby doll's legs as if she's just given birth to it from her little cleft vagina. Or perhaps it's I Can't Find My Baby! Similar to Kahlo's self-autopsies in paint, I Can't Find My Baby! is mutilated, with a red hash mark for a Cesarean above a string dangling from a bloody puss all the way off the canvas.

Whatever you do, don't let the born-agains in. They wouldn't get it at all.

On some canvases, Frida falls to pieces; in Disintegration, wires are applied onto her forehead like stitches to Frankenstein, and she has no eye. In some, like Frida Smoking a Lucky Strike, she has eyes, but they're empty and deadened. But by the end, in Frida Wearing Peasant Dress for Diego, she is lovely and perfect, elegant and glamorous, with nothing monstrous about her at all, rosy in lilac against a warm tangerine backing. She is healthy and hale and whole.

The city could be, too, if they weren't a bunch of dicks.

“Deconstructing Frida” at Sol Art Gallery Caf, 2202 N Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 834-0277; Open by appointment. Through Feb. 3.

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