Deborah Oropallo explores the dark side of fairy tales

"Entangled" by Deborah Oropallo. Photos courtesy Deborah Oropallo.

Deborah Oropallo has been fascinated with dress-up costumes for a while. The type adults order online, as opposed to the kids’ variety. French maid and nurses’ uniforms, Little Bo Peep get-ups and frilly princess dresses informed the pieces she created for her previous body of work, and they reappear in “Tale Spin”, her new exhibition which opened on Friday at Gallery 16 at 501 Third Street in San Francisco.

This time, the theme is fairy tales and Lolita says Oropallo, who has lived and worked in West Berkeley for the past 30 years. “There is always a very subversive edge to fairy tales,” she says. “And girls are always the victims.” As she writes in the exhibition catalog: “Fairy tales were morality plays meant to scare girls into being good. In that tradition, these paintings are cautionary tales; meant to be dark, fractured, edgy, sexy, and funny. Dangerous and wicked, the girls have turned into women, in a post feminist age… and the wolf is on the run.”

But there’s a lighter side to the work too. “I’m also making fun of these costumes,” Oropallo says. “I didn’t grow up with Grimm fairytles,  so in a way I’m creating a Looney Tunes version of them.”

"Lost" by Deborah Oropallo.

Gallery 16, which is a press as well as a gallery, was founded by painter Griff Williams, also a Berkeleyan. In the same style as a traditional press, artists are invited to work there with digital media and a variety of large scale printers.


Oropallo says she used chiffon, silk and several different rag papers for the new pieces, in an effort to ensure the pieces were not flat. For the same reason, the pieces are not presented under glass.

“Tale Spin” runs through April 30, and mid-way through the exhibition, on April 7, there will be a performance by Fauxnique, followed by an informal dialogue with San Francisco writer and critic Glen Helfand.

Full details can be found on Gallery 16’s website.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.