Creating art can be therapeutic, whether it be brushing paint on canvas, modeling with clay or stitching with needle and thread.

Art can also provide therapy for the viewer, whether it be gazing at a restful landscape, basking in a sunlit painting by an Impressionist or participating in a multisensory installation.- You can enjoy the latter in the Main Gallery of the Salt Lake Art Center. Here Arizona artist Beth Ames Swartz has created an environment where you are invited to be not just an objective viewer but a subjective participant.

The concept of the exhibit is the result of the artist's search for self-healing and spiritual renewal after becoming ill from hazardous materials she used when making paintings.

In her quest, Swartz visited seven ancient sacred sites - five in North America and two in France. The next 31/2 years were spent in chronicling her experience in a series of seven large paintings.

Each work represents one of the seven East Indian `chakras,' or energy centers. During the painting process, Swartz said she experienced many intense physical, psychological and spiritual changes. She added, "This installation has ultimately become a participatory tool for others to have the opportunity to experience inner transformation and self-healing."

As you enter this ritualistic journey, you will pass through crystal-refracted light which prompts you to focus upon your own body. Nearby is a sacred Navajo medicine wheel consisting of 34 incised stones. These stones suggest cyclical patterns of behavior.

Next, you walk into a darkened gallery where shafts of colored light spotlight the seven large paintings. As you contemplate each painting, you are bathed in a different hue of light which corresponds to the particular chakra.

They you move into the "balancing room," where colors are projected on a screen. Here is a place where you can sit and reflect on your feelings before returning to the outside world.

Swartz had planned to be in town for the opening reception on Dec. 7. She was also slated to conduct a workshop on ways to enhance creative energies. However, an unexpected illness prevented her from attending.

Two art-lunch talks about the exhibit are set for Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. The first one will be given by David W. Pursley, curator of education at SLAC, and the second, by artist Robin Lee Roberts.

"A Moving Point of Balance," continues through Feb. 1, 1991. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 328-4201.

- At the Southam Gallery, five outstanding Utah artists capture the flavor and beauty of Southern Utah in "Red Rock Christmas." They are Graydon Foulger, Richard Murray, A.D. Shaw, Kathryn Stats and Karl Thomas.

Anyone who has visited the Southern Utah's canyonlands knows that the rich red colors and intense blue skies are for real. And the artist who has most successfully captured these colors is Kathryn Stats.

Painting the panorama of that part of the country is difficult because the colors seen are quite foreign to colors used in landscapes in other parts of the country. And there are so many areas that could be the center of interest. Stats resolved this problem by painting in early morning or late afternoon when the foreground was in shadow and the sun lit up towering cliffs. Among her most impressive paintings are "Torrey Farm" and "South Park Avenue, Arches A.M."

Shaw was more fascinated with in small Southern Utah towns. Two of his best paintings are "Kanab" and "Green River Watermelons."

Works by other gallery regulars continue to hang in the windows and in the back of the store. Coincidentally, some of these paintings feature scenes from Southern Utah.

"Red Rock Christmas" continues through Jan. 11 at Southam Gallery, 50 E. 300 South (322-0376). Hours are 11:30 through 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through Dec. 22, and 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., from Dec. 26 through Jan. 11.

- Another exhibit that offers visual therapy for both artist and viewer is the Atrium Gallery's "Design in Needlework: The Vanessa-Ann Collection."

If you have never met Vanessa-Ann, you never will. These delightful needlework creations are the result of the collatoration of Jo Packham and Terrece Beesley Woodruff, both of Ogden. These two women met in 1979, and since then, have formed a company that operates out of a restored grocery store on 25th Street in Ogden. They named the company after their two oldest daughters, Sara Vanessa and Lori Ann.

Woodruff draws the original designs on graph paper and fills in the squares with colored pencil. The piece is then stitched, instructions are written and graphs prepared. Packham then photographs the work.

This winning combination has resulted in quality publications. More than 100 softbound books have been printed by Vanessa-Ann. One book, "Dreamer's Tapestry," was awarded a "Ginnie" by the Chartered Designers of America for being the finest needlework book published in 1982. They have also produced 16 hardbound books, four of which are among the top 20 best-selling needlecraft books in the country.

Therapy can be found in some of the sayings that have been stitched into the compositions. One reads, "A day in the country is worth a month in town." Landscape painters wholeheartedly agree with this golden nugget of thought.

Although the majority of works are balanced formally, there are exceptions. Two of the best are "Jewish New Year" and "Night of the Shooting Stars."

The Vanessa-Ann Collection continues through Jan. 15 at the Atrium Gallery on the third floor of the Main Library, 209 E. 500 South.