Natural Expressions: Collected Landscapes from the IMAS Vault

June 17, 2023 - April 7, 2024

Exhibitions are free with General Admission.

June 17, 2023 – April 14, 2024

Exhibitions are free with General Admission.

Natural Expressions: Collected Landscapes from the IMAS Vault celebrates visual artists who observed natural scenes and creatively recorded what they saw. These 32 works of art were carefully chosen from the permanent collection to inspire audiences: transporting the viewer to a specific time and place, recalling an artist’s special memory, or examining details of a particular outdoor setting.

The landscapes include scenes of country sides, mountains, forests, jungles, and wilderness that shape the earth. Several works show the effects of weather and climate, while others convey a specific time of day or season.  Some landscapes appear untouched by humans.  Even when people and animals are pictured, they are secondary in importance to the natural setting. The art works represent four continents and inject an international flavor to the exhibit. Great range is also demonstrated in size (miniature to gigantic) and media (oil, watercolor, mixed media, and lithography).

Some of the landscape subjects may be familiar, as in the art of E. E. Nichols and Mamie Parvin Brown who painted the popular Rio Grande Valley locations they admired.  Working about one hundred years apart, both artists captured outdoor images easily recognized by today’s South Texas residents and visitors.

Visitors often wonder how the artworks shown in exhibits such as this one came to IMAS.  Items from generous donors and museum purchases have contributed over 14,000 art objects to form the museum’s permanent collection which is held in public trust.

Preserving and protecting works of art is an obligation for IMAS. This requires assigning each of the 14,000 objects an identification number and storing them in the “vault” (a secured temperature and humidity-controlled space). The art in this exhibit, dating from the 17th century to the present, is kept safe and maintained so it may continue to be studied and put on exhibit for future generations of museum visitors.

Mary Nettie Rodriguez, Guest Curator

World Water Day –
Gallery Talk with Guest Curator Mary Nettie Rodriguez

March 23, 2023 | 11:00 a.m.

Natural Expressions: Collected Landscapes from the IMAS Vault celebrates visual artists who observed the natural scenes and creatively recorded what they saw. Explore the beauty of those vivid scenes and learn more about these works of art with guest curator Mary Nettie Rodriguez in this intimate gallery talk. The guided art talk and tour is included with general admission, free for IMAS Members.

Gallery Talk with Mary Nettie Rodriguez at IMAS

Painting in the Gallery – Adult Workshop

November 11, 2023, 2:00 PM – 4:15 PM

Join us in Central Gallery for an afternoon of relaxing Landscape Painting with Educator and Artist Edgar Cortez. Participants will be guided through a landscape acrylic painting as you learn more about the importance of foreground, middle and background in art.

Inspired by the exhibit: Natural Expressions: Collected Landscapes from the IMAS Vault

Light refreshments will be provided. Must be 17 years or older for registration.

Gallery Talk with Artist Jerry Lyles

November 4, 2023, 2:00-3:00 PM

Delve into the process and technique of Landscape Art. Learn more about the art of Landscape painting with UTRGV professor and local artist Jerry Lyles in this gallery presentation. This art talk is included with general admission.


Landscape painters use recognizable arrangements to show size, movement, and distance. They make clear-cut divisions of foreground (the space closest to the viewer), background (the space farthest away), and middle ground (everything in between) to bring outdoor scenes from nature in front of the viewer.

Travis Whitefield created a sense of depth on a flat surface in his lithograph Landscape with a dramatic perspective that draws the eye into infinity. The artist used blurred background images in duller colors and smaller objects overlapped by larger ones to create the illusion of distance in their painting Landscape – Austrian Alps.

Artists painted obvious or hidden horizon lines to indicate where sky and earth meet, and they used focal points to emphasize a key point of interest in their work or capture their viewers’ attention. Can you find the focal points and obvious horizon lines in the landscapes included in this exhibit?


New Mexico Landscape appears to be non-representational and abstract. Look closely to discover how the artist reveals the rock mesas and pine forests of the Southwest.

Artist Telesforo Rodriguez shows villagers harvesting crops among two stacked rows of landscape imagery called registers, a technique used by artists to depict more than one scene in a single painting.


How do artists use visual cues, art elements, and weather to portray distinct seasons?

My Backyard reveals autumn through brilliant orange and golden yellow hues, while a more subtle Autumn in White Mountains shows a rocky creek bed leading the eye deeper into a thinning New Mexico forest.

Brazilian artist Rubens Manoel Sacramento’s Untitled announces an approaching summer storm through imagery of threatening clouds and swaying palms, employing short brush strokes to show movement in a windy Brazilian jungle.

Wilma Langhamer’s Spring in Chenonceau depicts early spring with mint green dotted leaves and villagers picnicking on a fresh grass lawn, while her work the Three Huntsman and Line Camp Ahead by artist Bill Bender, show humans and animals interacting within expansive snow-covered winter landscapes.


When Francisco Navarro painted landscape scenes on these wooden trays, he turned everyday objects into special ones. He used shiny lacquer paint in bold, bright colors, to create eye-catching views of churches and jungle animals. His decoration of common objects changed them from the ordinary into extraordinary works of art.

Tiny pieces of popote (straw) were carefully arranged and glued onto wood to create the miniature landscape scenes of Mexico.  Special permanent color dyes have kept the straw colorful and vibrant on these pieces that are more than 40 years old.

E. E. Nichols

Edward Edson Nichols grew up in Illinois and moved to Edinburg, Texas, in 1966 to teach painting and drawing at Pan American University (now the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley). Nichols found his forever home in Deep South Texas, where his teaching career and painting opportunities flourished.

Inspired by the Rio Grande Valley’s lush landscapes and outdoor beauty, he passionately turned his observations of nature into stunning works of art. In his own words, Nichols shared, “Painting is to me about being very quiet and centered and then waiting to see what is revealed.”

From his studio in the middle of a grapefruit orchard, Nichols envisioned landscapes from a bird’s eye view. He imagined aerial views of the citrus trees in South Texas’s early morning light in Grovescape with Morning Light and Five Trees with Birds, and Anzalduas Park, splashed with bright blues, greens, and yellows, captured one of Nichols’s favorite places to paint along the Rio Grande River.

In addition to many hours spent teaching at the university, Nichols found productive studio time right up until his death at age 87 in 2016. Working in gouache (a thick watercolor paint), collage, acrylic, and watercolor media, he created hundreds of paintings on a wide variety of topics over his lifetime.

Mamie P. Brown

Mamie Parvin Brown (1867-1932) lived in the Pacific Northwest where she worked as a professional artist and university educated teacher. Skilled in porcelain and pottery ceramics, she also produced paintings in watercolor and oil media.

In her early sixties, Brown spent time in the Rio Grande Valley visiting her son, a US Army dentist, during his duty assignments at Fort Ringgold, Fort Mackintosh, and Fort Brownsville. During those visits, she carefully observed the area’s natural habitats and local architecture, blending the two subjects in watercolor and oil paintings like those displayed in this exhibit.

Brown set up her easel along the Rio Grande River and painted what she observed. By working on-site and outdoors, she captured the dramatic sunlight, clouds and shadows from the same scenes at different times of the day such as those in her Red Head Hill pieces.

Brown’s artistic eye captured the defining characteristics of the Rio Grande Valley’s native landscapes, and her careful dating of each work created a valuable historical record.  Almost a century later, the landscapes and views that she painted between 1927 and 1930 are still recognizable.

Natural Expressions: Collected Landscapes from the IMAS Vault

Emil Fiala, Austrian, 1869-1960

Untitled, n.d.

Oil on canvas

Museum Collection