-Glass is an important medium in three exhibits in Salt Lake. It is the material David Schwarz uses to create his sculptures. And although George Dibble and Cynthia Fehr rely on it to protect their works, their paintings often shine though a glass brightly.

-George Dibble's fans - including collectors, friends, students and fellow-artists - have waited patiently for his retrospective. After all, he has been painting for more than 60 years now. And up until now, his followers have had to be content with an occasional brush with his works.But everyone is happy now, since Dibble's show is currently gracing the walls of the main gallery at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

For this retrospective show, guest curator Bonnie Phillips collected and reviewed more than 1,000 of Dibble's works. She then faced the challenge of reducing that number to around 60, but still retaining the evolution of style that makes any retrospective exhibit more meaningful. And she was successful!

Although the exhibit is hung chronologically, it doesn't appear to be so. That's because, unlike many artists, Dibble didn't discard one style when he moved on to another. Earlier styles continue to resurface, adding variety to his repertoire.

As Phillips assembled this exhibit, she became increasingly aware of the fact that Dibble "has never fallen prey to the idea that older works and older styles have no importance; he has been able to acknowledge and build upon his early training in realism and impressionism, while continuing to re-examine the potential of new means of expression."

With that in mind, viewers are better prepared to see paintings of strikingly different styles hanging side by side - hard-edge ones next to soft-focus ones; colorfully explosive ones next to cool, subdued ones; glazed, moody ones next to clear, spontaneous ones.

The first painting in the show is representational. That's not surprising, since it was done back in the 1920s, when representational art was "in."

Even so, in those early years, Dibble purposely avoided taking courses from U. of U. instructors who were academically inclined, requiring their students to imitate them. Instead, he preferred the teaching of Mabel Frazer and Jack Sears, both of whom encouraged young artists to develop their own styles.

Had Dibble never pulled away from that representational style, he probably wouldn't have become a notable artist.

Fortunately he did; and he has.

In the show's catalog, Robert Olpin tells how Dibble was determined to go to school in New York and finally signed up at the Art Students League. It was there that the artist was attracted to various facets of cubism. And it was there that he found his style.

The 1930s found Dibble still working primarily in oils and focusing on abstract and non-objective approaches. In fact, "Long Island Sound," one of the paintings in this show, won honors at the intercollegiate show while he was studying at Columbia University.

Dibble liked to dabble in watercolor during the 1930s, but it wasn't until later that he realized that it was watercolor that allowed "for the expression of anything from a whimsical mood to feelings of danger."

Olpin writes, "He had become increasingly adept in handling its demand; to commit to an image." He added that Dibble feels that a watercolorist should make a statement and not revise it, because over management results in muddy, unclear passages.

A group of three of Dibble's lithographs - a boat, a plane and a mountain range - is revealing. Of the three, the mountain range is the most adroitly handled. In a way, it prophecies of similar imagery that would weave through many of his later and most successful paintings. Take a look at "Cedar Canyon, 1955," and "Rattlesnake Gulch, 1975."

His technique shines in his vignettes where he has used his "shorthand" approach. Here he reduces his painting to only a few broad strokes, graded washes and areas of soft focus. Yet, while painting these joyous watercolors, he's still in control of the medium.

During an artist's lifetime, he often reaches a peak, and then starts going downhill. Not so with Dibble. After more than six decades of painting, he's still producing some highly creative works.

Frank Sanguinetti, director of UMFA, expressed it well when he said, "George's work in recent years, far from showing any decline in creativity, has been so innovative and beguiling that it suggests another long look at his work may be in order a few years hence."

The show will remain at UMFA (581-7332) through Feb. 26. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 2-5 p.m. on weekends.

-While at UMFA, don't miss the blown-glass sculptures by David Schwarz. There you will see an exciting, new direction in glass art.

Schwarz' sculptures combine both two-dimensional and three-dimensional illusion. He blows molten glass and adds layers of molten color, often adding lines or threads of color between the layers. He then cuts the glass with a rotating blade and polishes the surface. He then draws architectural drawings in perspective by masking out forms and sandblasting exposed areas.

The results are fascinating. As the viewer studies the sculpture, he feels as though he is staring down at a group of skyscrapers.

-Cynthia Fehr has a flair for watercolors, but her approach is considerably different from that of Dibble. Her one-woman show is at Phillips Gallery.

Fehr is the first to admit that her paintings reflect her personality. "I am rather orderly and detailed," she said. There are no wet-in-wet techniques here; rather, hard-edged outlines of architecture, people and landscape.

This particular show features about 27 scenes of Leningrad and European capitals.

Her paintings become visually exciting when Fehr plays a lost-and-found game with light and shadow, as in "Posts, London."

Even more exciting, however, are her works that have been accented with areas of bright color, as in her scenes of flower markets and fruit stands. "Refreshments, Leningrad" is one of her best; background colors are warm and figures are placed well compositionally.

Fehr's show continues at Phillips Gallery (364-8284) through Feb. 18. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

So don't just walk or drive by these buildings and look through a glass darkly. Walk inside and take time to view the exhibits through a glass brightly.