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ED GOLDMAN: Celebrating D (Oldham Neath) days
Sacramento Business Journal, August 15, 2013

Watercolor by David Lobenberg

Darling Oldham Neath, KVIE-TV Channel 6’s on-air art curator and one of the hosts of its “KVIE Arts Showcase” on Tuesday evening, has been celebrating two D-Days this month: her 50th birthday and the 30th anniversary of her iconic art gallery and shop, Archival Gallery.

Neath — best known around Sacramento, among art collectors and on TV simply as “D” and for tooling around in a pink 1968 VW van — is one of the region’s rare, and certainly long-running, art business success stories. She began as an assistant to the late gallery owner Michael Himovitz, with whom she and a few others created the Second Saturday art walk. That event has grown in little more than two decades from a handful of patrons dropping into local galleries for simultaneous opening-night receptions, to a monthly, citywide festival that spills (along with inexpensive wine) into the streets and alleyways of downtown and midtown Sacramento.

“The framing part of my business always had to be the number one priority,” Neath says as we chatted in her 2,800-square-foot East Sacramento business one recent afternoon. “At first, it was just basic economics. But then I realized that I got to be around so many more artists (by) running my framing shop than if I just ran a gallery.” It also gives her, she says, a sneak preview of a number of art shows before they’re hung.

Archival Gallery regularly prepares paintings for shows at the Crocker Art Museum and the California State Railroad Museum, as well as at popular local bars such as Nolan’s Hilltop Tavern (whose owner, Donna Nolan, drops in during our interview to pick up a freshly framed painting), Club 2Me and Raven. Archival also helped Embassy Suites, next to Old Sacramento, redecorate all of its rooms.

Neath says “at least twice a week” she actually talks people out of framing the paintings they’ve purchased. “I’m the advocate for the artwork itself,” she says. “One of the reasons I call my business Archival is because I believe a painting has to be what the artist intended, and it has to stand the test of time. For example, I’d like to go on record as saying that I’m not responsible for any of the leather-wrapped frames of the 1980s.”

When I laugh and venture the opinion that some of them were kind of cool, she says, with a comedian’s timing, “Oh, most of them were cool. Then. In the 1980s. Then. The key word is ‘then.’”

Part Two 

In yesterday’s clog, we were chatting with Darling Oldham Neath, best known as D, about the art business. She says it surprised during the recent recession that Archival Gallery, her East Sacramento art gallery and shop, continued to thrive. “Then I figured out what was happening,” she says. “People were canceling their vacations and starting to paint the walls of their homes to feel better.”

They were, Neath says, “framing artwork done by their kids, or reframing photos of their family — a whole nesting thing was going on. And when you have an orange wall, that red frame you used the first time around doesn’t look really great. I never had to stock so many white frames in my life.”

If there was a positive side to the recession, Neath says, “It’s that a lot of people suddenly wanted their homes to be about themselves, not about conspicuous consumption. What I’ve seen in the past few years is that even people you’d never think of as serious collectors don’t want to buy mass-produced art.”

This month, Neath is celebrating her 50th birthday and the 30th anniversary of her gallery. For the latter, she’s featuring the works of some of the region’s best known artists (and Archival regulars) — including Al Farrow, Corey Okada, Sean Royal, Robert Bowen, Phyllis Cottrell, Gary Dinnen, Mariellen Layne, Eric Dahlin, Maija Peeples-Bright, Rudy Cuellar, Tim Collom, Maria Winkler, Ken Waterstreet and Mel Ramos, among others.

Neath says one of Sacramento’s better-kept secrets is the quality — and monetary value — of the artwork in some private collections. “I frame things in this town that you would not believe are in private homes,” she says. “Sometimes, I don’t even want to know how some of these people got their hands on some of these pieces.” She doesn’t name names, of course — not even off the record. In short, if you’re one of the aforementioned collectors, rest easy.

One of Neath’s differentiations as a framer and gallery owner is that, through her husband Tom Neath’s business, Archival Gallery holds a contractor’s license. “That means we’re bonded, insured and know how to handle our tools,” she says.

Mistakes do happen, she admits, but never twice. As we sit in her gallery she points to a baroque gold frame hanging on the wall. Within the frame is a standard-issue wall clock. No matting or canvas, just a clock on the wall with a frame around it — one that cost (and here’s the point) $780. “It’s a job I screwed up a long time ago,” she says.

When I remark that the frame looks perfectly fine, she says: “Sure, but it’s not the exact size that the customer actually needed or expected. I had to eat the cost of the frame. And I keep it up there on the wall to remind me of one simple rule in this business: Always measure twice.”

Ed Goldman, president of Goldman Communications Inc., is a Sacramento writer and marketing consultant. His collection of Business Journal columns, "But I Digress," is available at

Friday, April 26, 2013

Late artist's work forms basis for collaborative exhibit

"The Last Collaborations of Laureen Landau" at Archival Gallery is something of a contradiction in terms. Because Landau died in 2009, she couldn't participate in a process defined as two or more people working together.

Rather, this show consists of unfinished works of Landau that artists who had a connection with her have worked over and made into their own. It was Landau's working habit to prepare many canvases and works on paper by laying in background colors and intimations of imagery. Using these as a jumping-off point, local painters have created new works under which Landau's initial markings serve as a palimpsest.

The work in the show that feels most like an actual collaboration is Maria Winkler's "Weaving." In it Winkler has combined one of Landau's woven paper watercolors with her own image of a bag of marbles and literally woven the two together. The result is a complex abstraction that partakes of characteristic qualities of both artists' works.

The rest of the works in this uneven show range from Tim Collum's Thiebaud-like beach scene to Corey Okada's memento mori of a partial skull and a pair of pomegranates on a softly colored ground.

Fred Gordon's "Autumn Evening" brackets a verdant landscape across which bats fly with images of fish and fishing lures. It's a compelling work that has a gothic quality.

Lighter in spirit is Maureen Hood's "Laureen's Last Laugh," an image of a laughing clown against a gridded backdrop that includes a small Rembrandt self- portrait.

Some artists have completely worked over Landau's starts so that their works are completely their own. Among them is Gary Dinnen, who gives us a typically wacky neo-expressionist scene of figures and animals, and Maija Peeples-Bright, who offers a pair of brightly colored, glitter-strewn images of charming animals whose bodies form bridges.

Jack Ogden offers two of the strongest works in the show, a fresh, gestural painting of a lake with boats and a brooding atmospheric scene of a figure looking over his shoulder. Emily Elders departs from the norm with a small sculpture of a paper house lit up from inside by LEDs.

Ken Waterstreet is represented by a drawing of childlike figures against a luminous ground while D.L. Thomas presents a meticulously drawn portrait of a young Landau.

While the show is interesting, it raises questions about what should be done with an artist's unfinished work. Should such works to be preserved as is or destroyed? If it were you, would you feel comfortable with letting another artist use your work to jump-start one of their own?

We don't know how Landau would have felt, but she would no doubt approve of the fact that the gallery's portion of any sales will go to a Carmichael dog rescue organization, Old Dogs, New Tricks Inc. That's where Landau got her own beloved pup, Roxy, who died at the age of 17 last year.

It should be noted that the gallery has also mounted a small display of finished works by Landau, including some lovely scenes of local parks, that demonstrate on a small scale what a fine artist she was.

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