Kyla P. Tynes never met environmentalist and park ranger Roger Epperson, but she's gotten to know a lot about him through his love of art and nature.

As Tynes researched extensively on the art collection of Epperson, who died in 2008, she said she understood his passion for California's lush environment and why he amassed such an impressive art collection.

The museum manager of the Saint Mary's College Museum of Art -- formerly the Hearst Art Gallery -- put together "The Nature of Collecting: The Early 20th Century Fine Art Collection of Roger Epperson," which opens July 8, at the museum.

This is the first time the public will get to view 97 pieces out of more than 300 from Epperson's collection, said Tynes, the exhibit curator.

"He was able to express two of his great loves in his wonderful collection," Tynes said.

A self-taught collector of early California landscape paintings, etchings and woodblock prints, Epperson, who lived in Concord, scoured auction houses, antique shops, garage sales, galleries and the Internet for his collection.

As an East Bay Regional Parks Ranger for more than 30 years, Epperson shared an awe and respect for nature and the environment as did the artists in his collection.

"With a ridge named in his honor located in Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, the Saint Mary's College Museum of Art will pay tribute to Epperson and his collection this summer," Tynes said.


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Epperson began collecting more than 25 years ago when he saw an exhibition at the Hearst Art Gallery entitled, "The Color Wood Cut in America 1895-1945."

"He saw the display of woodcuts and came to the show several times," Tynes said.

Soon his personal art collection became museum-worthy, including the work of artists such as Maurice Braun, Percy Gray, Mary DeNeale Morgan, Carl Sammons and William S. Rice. There is an ink drawing by Maynard Dixon; etchings by Roi Partridge, Cornelis Botke, and Luigi Lucioni; and woodblock prints by Frances Gearhart, Gustave Baumann, Bertha Lum, Xavier Martinez, Hiroshi Yoshida and Chiura Obata, Tynes said.

Tynes will moderate a panel discussion at 2 p.m. July 8, about forming one's own collection with gallery experts Daniel Lienau from The Annex Galleries, Catherine Burns from Catherine E. Burns Fine Prints, and Jim Rease Cole, collector and close friend of Epperson. It will be held in the Soda Activity Center.

"Because he was local, people can find out what inspired Roger Epperson to start his own art collection and find out how they can start their own," she said.

Since Epperson was self-taught, the public can learn that they can begin collecting art by looking for what inspires them.

"His collection shows what was important to him -- nature and art," she said.

Tynes said the gallery staff is thankful for the support of the East Bay Regional Park District, Regional Parks Foundation, Save Mount Diablo and the Muir Heritage Land Trust.

Tynes said she hopes the public will see how much Epperson appreciated the California landscapes.

"He'd want people to look at those places and imagine themselves there -- that the landscapes are readily available for them to explore," she said. "I had the great misfortune of not meeting Roger Epperson, but doing research on the art he loved offered a glimpse of his life and what he was passionate about."

"The Nature of Collecting: The Early 20th Century Fine Art Collection of Roger Epperson"
WHEN: Through Sept. 16; panel discussion at 2 p.m. July 8, Soda Activity Center, with gallery experts about forming one's own collection
WHERE: Exhibit at Saint Mary's College Museum of Art, Moraga
INFORMATION: $5 admission. Hours: 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday