Times have changed! Many gallery owners used to transform their galleries into Santa's workshops at this time of year, filling them with lots of decorations and holiday arts and crafts. But over the past two or three years, more and more galleries have started a new trend - keeping the galleries non-seasonal and spotlighting high-quality art that can adorn collectors' homes throughout the year.

- The paintings and sculptures in the new show at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts are definitely high-quality art; but they're NFS. That means they've already been purchased and are part of the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.Titled "Figure as Subject," this visually imposing exhibit reflects a new direction in American art since the mid-1970s - the revival of the figure.

Ever since 1945, abstract expressionism and other movements placed little or no emphasis on the human body. It took about 30 years for the figure to resurface in the mainstream of art. And when it did, it often incorporated many of the styles that had upstaged it during that 30-year period of surrealism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, etc.

The show's visual impact is immediate, not only because of a proliferation of styles but because of the immense size of the works. There are only 30 paintings and sculptures in the show, but they have no trouble filling the exhibition space.

"When the Worlds Collide," a large oil, acrylic and enamel spray painting by Kenny Scharf, is 122 by 209 inches. Viola Frey's sculpture "Me Man," a glazed ceramic sculpture in nine units, stands over 8 feet tall.

Two of the most fascinating sculptures in the show are James Surls "Me and the Butcher Knives" and Robert Hudson's "Posing the Question."

Surls' oak and mahogany work is a kind of St. Sebastian of east Texas, where butcher knives, rather than arrows, pierce the figure.

Hudson combined polychromed steel and iron to come up with "Posing the Question," a highly stylized, geometric fisherman. After "posing the question," the sculptor then attached a hook in the shape of a question mark at the end of a fishing pole.

Ceramist/sculptor Mary Frank creates her "Swimmer" by rolling and shaping slabs of high-fired clay. Recognizable anatomical parts emerge and then disappear, adding to the fascination of the piece.

Works by two artists, whose names have become household words nationally, appear in the show. They are painter Philip Pearlstein and sculptor Duane Hanson. Pearlstein treats his figures as still-life objects. And their complicated poses nullify traditional rules of composition. Hanson composes 3-D figures so realistically that they appear animated.

This impressive exhibit remains at the University of Utah in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts through Jan. 8. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2-5 p.m. on weekends.

- Visitors to the Salt Lake Public Library will find a pleasant surprise in the Atrium Gallery - the silk paintings of fiber artist Roberta Glidden, woven baskets by Mary Ann Jacobs and wood vessels by Clead Christiansen.

Although her recent works could easily be categorized as painting, Glidden prefers to identify herself as a crafts artist.

"My main interest is the rich and subtle hues that can be achieved by dyeing silk and the serendipitous drift of color as it interacts with the barriers formed by wax resist."

Filling silk with subtle gradations of color is the sign of a real pro, and Glidden seems to do it effortlessly. In some of her compositions, a single line meanders across the surface. In others, colorful flowers dominate.

The latter is especially appealing to me. There are scenes of hydrangeas, nasturtiums, irises, cyclamen, tulips, and fuchsia - occasionally interrupted by a cat or two.

Mary Ann Jacobs' forte as a basket weaver becomes immediately apparent, especially after viewing such works as baskets titled "Big W," "Basket-in-a-Basket," and "Fish."

For years, she was drawn to and worked with the handsome shapes of baskets from the Appalachian region. These days, she says, she has grown tired of their repetition and limitations. And the non-functional baskets in this show have evolved these earlier basic basketry weaving techniques.

Ogden resident Clead Christiansen transforms salvaged materials into works of art by using a lathe. And the results are strikingly beautiful. He is constantly on the lookout for scrap wood. It might be ash, box elder, apricot or a variety of other woods.

Christensen travels throughout the United States, lecturing, demonstrating and exhibiting his works at wood-turning symposiums and workshops.

The Atrium Gallery show continues through Dec. 13.

- For a little "Peace and Quiet," why not stop by the Gayle Weyher Gallery? That happens to be the name of the holiday group show. The title was taken from one of Lory Smith's pastels on display there.

Approximately 20 gallery regulars have gathered together some of the best works and recent works that are real show-stoppers.

Artwork of varied styles and media fill the walls and pedestals; and there's something to excite every gallery visitor. Triggering my artistic taste buds are silkscreens by Anna Bliss, intaglio prints by Moishe Smith, and painted bones by Bonnie Sucec.

Also, Debra Olsen has a flair for creating contemporary quilts. But in doing so, she maintains true to quiltmaking techniques.

Additional works by all the artists represented in the Gayle Weyher Gallery can be seen upstairs on the second floor.

Gallery hours are 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment.