-Winters can be severe in Cache Valley. To avoid them, birds fly south and bears hibernate. To endure them, people bundle up in their heavy coats.

But one thing that thrives there during the cold winter months is visual art. In fact, many of Logan's best art exhibits are displayed that time of year. Their bright colors tend to warm the soul and fill it with anticipation of better days to come.-Three striking exhibits are being featured in the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. The Upper Gallery spotlights the collaborative efforts of photographer Patrick Na-gatani and painter Andree Tracey. Two exhibits fill the downstairs Marie Eccles Caine Gallery - an invitational exhibit on clay objects and the permanent collection show "20th Century Art of Western United States."

In the first exhibit, "Fantasizing," Nagatani and Tracey rely on painting, photography, performance and installation to stretch the limited conventions of their own mediums. Themes are political and social, with many focusing on the effects of nuclear destruction.

The artists spend hundreds of hours setting up their installations for final photographing. Tracey paints the backdrops; Nagatani photographs images, many of which were cut out and attached to the background; both spray-paint found objects and hang dozens of objects from threads in front of other objects. They even integrate live people into the composition.

The energy resulting from these collaborative efforts is nothing short of explosive. Images, colors, values, textures - everything in these provocative scenes trigger the viewer's imagination and jar his intellect.

Museum director Peter Briggs said that the Nagatani/Tracey have created a layered reality in their work because of the manipulation of the media.

"Visual punning is a part of this stimulating work," he said. "The technical aspects are also of interest because of the large scale of the works and the unique collaboration of photographer and painter."

-Downstairs, in the Caine Gallery, proudly displays some of the artwork from the museum's permanent collection.

Titled "20th Century Art of Western United States," it shows samples of art representing styles from 1912 to the present. And depending on where you begin viewing the exhibit, you'll either be going forward or backward in time.

Nicholas P. Brigante's "Study: Black Shroud, 1923" has a definite John Marin feel to it. In fact, Marin started painting in this cubist/

expressionist style around 1915, so could well have been Brigante's inspiration.

And Grace Clement's 1930 "Still Life in Interior" reflects Odilon Redon's colors and technique. Redon (1840-1916) was a contemporary of Monet. By 1930, his work had been reproduced widely and probably influenced Clement's style.

Although each viewer will undoubtedly pick out his own favorites, I was particularly drawn to Millard Sheet's lithograph "Family Flats"; Barbara Latham's tempera painting; Mahonri Young's sculpture "Right to the Jaw"; L. Feitelson's cubistic oil "Pears: Organization of Perception"; Charles Howard's abstract painting "The Visitants"; and Peter Kras-now's oil on board "Sheltered."

And Bruce Towney's "Landscape and Moon" is fascinating because it's a good example of how negative space shifts to positive - and vice versa.

-Sharing space in the Caine Gallery is the invitational show "Possessions." This unusual exhibition surveys the aesthetic, social and cultural dimensions of "special-use" clay objects. It features images, charms, amulets, fetishes, and other related items.

These items have intense personal, religious and/or psychic significance.

Mark Kuzio borrowed symbols from universal myths for his unusual pot where surfaces contain a pleasing division of positive and negative space and occasional accepts of warm color.

Romilla Batra's "Wall Hanging II" is an excellent example of the variety of forms and textures that can be created in clay. As Batra created this bas-relief piece, she effectively combined bamboo, jute and clay.

But Clayton Bailey's humorous "Fight Satan" is the highlight of the show. This work includes a coin-operated ceramic tableau of a devil. But that's not all. There are flashing lights and a recorded message, to be listened to only by those who are not easily frightened.

Susan Harris, curator of the "Possessions" exhibit, said, "This is not your usual vessel show." Rather, she says, it is a combination of historical, anthropological ideas and intense, personal interpretations.

-Another great exhibit on display last week in USU's Tippetts Exhibit Hall was the "The Illustration Alumni Exhibition." It came down last Friday.

Coordinated by faculty member Glen Edwards, the exhibit spotlighted both original or published art pieces by works by about 100 graduates of the illustration and commercial art programs over the years.

The exhibit clearly showed how

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broad the illustration field really is. There were samples of paperback books, movie posters, fashion layouts, children's books and much more.

The show also pointed out how highly competitive the illustration field really is; yet, it's full of opportunity. And many USU graduates have made impressive inroads in that field already.

Those illustrators who made my "creme de la creme" list included Mike Christensen, Jody Eastman, Barbara Edwards, Alan Hashimoto, Steve Kropp, Jim Morgan, Jan Perkins, Scott Snow and Bob Westerberg.

Also highly impressive were Dave Carter's pop-up children's books.

Of the above exhibitions, "Possessions" remains at the museum through Feb. 19. "Fantasizing" will stay a little longer - through Feb. 26. The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:30 to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends from 2-5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and holidays. For information, call 750-1351.