Elena Oliverez, curator of the new Museum of Mexican Arts in Santa Barbara, wanted her first exhivit ot convey the power and subletly of fine Chicano art. Displaying the huge, gaudy ceramic Arbol de la vida-tree of life- would please the wealthy patron who donated it, but convey all the tackiness of a pinata from Tijuana. It wounded Elena's sensibilities and her pride. And that was before it killed her boss. Lying among the smashed pottery was Frank de Palma, the man Elena locked inside the gallery when she left the night before. No one else could have entered without her key. Anglo homicide detective Lt.Dave Kirk called the death a murder and Elena his only suspect. Now she had to turn to another fine art; catching a talented killer who framed her with a masterpiece of crime.