-So far this year, Utah has been inundated with new art exhibits. And they haven't been run-of-the-mill shows either; most are high-class exhibits spotlighting some of Utah's best talent.

-Take Paul Davis' exhibit, for example. His show of 72 paintings and 10 drawings fills the Main Gallery of the Salt Lake Art Center.Davis is no newcomer to the Utah art scene. He has been a professor of art at the University of Utah for 13 years; he won the first Utah Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowship; and late last year, he was selected from a total of 629 regional applicants to receive one of 15 WESTAF/-NEA Regional Fellowships for Visual Artists.

One look at the exhibit proves that Davis' recognitions were definitely not happenstance. He is a superb draftsman, has a strong sense of design, and introduces highly original imagery.

Almost half of his show is made up of a series of 38 small portraits - all uniform in size. In these simple, formally balanced paintings, there is no attempt to exaggerate expession or create unusual compositions; the model looks directly at the viewer.

These portraits prove that Davis not only has ability to capture likeness, but knows how to apply colors confidently. From a distance, the faces appear smooth; up close, they are often mosaics of broken color.

Modeling and texturing techniques reach their zenith in the remainder of Davis' show. Here, viewers can't help but be immediately drawn to his partially draped, beautifully modeled figures. Then, with an unexpected burst of energy, the artist adds texture to the drapery with brush and palette knife.

These two styles integrate well in a number of pieces, including "Uinta" and "Pursuit." In others, however, the blotches of white are visually disturbing and often prevent the eye from moving through the composition and enjoying the beautifully modeled figures.

My favorite paintings in the show were not these highly contrasting ones. Instead I was drawn to the lighter background in "Draped Figure II," the subtle color changes and darker drapery in "Danae," and the narrative of "Four Figures."

-In the Upstairs Gallery, Richard Burton takes the viewer on a journey along U.S. 89. But he doesn't stop at places where most photographers would "look, point and shoot." Instead, he focuses on scenes that most people would find uninteresting.

How many people who photograph the Salt Lake Temple where only its spires rise above the Relief Society and the picture is divided vertically by a speed limit sign?

Burton does - and the results are highly successful. In this show, his photography is grouped into seven categories: the road, home, food, agriculture and business, parks, entertainment, places of worship and miscellaneous scenes.

Gallery visitors will be captivated by his crisp lines, the detail of close as well as distant objects, and the arrangement of the elements of art.

He has a knack of combining objects of primary and secondary colors. Often, however, the warm colors are only small spots that not only become the focal point but give life to the work.

Some of his works provide a chuckle. He makes fun of misspelled words, as in a sign in Soda Springs that reads "Snooks for Sherif." Behind a cemetery of carefully aligned tomb stones is a David Early tire store displaying signs that say "shocks," "brakes" and "alignment."

Other works are informative, as are his prints of Yellowstone after last year's fire. Even here, however, he is able to capture beauty.

Burton's "Photographic Essay of Highway 89" continues at the Salt Lake Art Center through Feb. 19. Hours at the Center are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

-Unconventional works by Tom Judd cover the walls of Gayle Weyher's Gallery. His large-scale paintings are filled with a potpourri of images. If they appear ambiguous, they are meant to be. Judd enjoys manipulating the viewer between illusion and reality.

Often there is a painting within a painting. And Judd doesn't hesitate to incorporate new mediums in his oils, such as glitter for the mat and/

or frame of the picture within the picture. Hands, cups, empty chairs, etc., figure prominently in his scenarios. Many of the images have been extracted from Judd's boyhood experiences.

Judd grew up in Utah, and even did some undergraduate work in art at the U. About 25 years ago, he moved to Philadelphia, where he finished his studies and currently lives.

Some of his most intriguing works are his wall pieces constructed out of objects he found and attached with hinges. He uses mixed media to create images on their surfaces.

Tom Judd's works will be exhibited at the Gayle Weyher Gallery through Feb. 10.

-Carved wood carousel creatures by Layton sculptor Richard Dawson are attracting considerable attention at the Utah Designer Craftsmen Gallery. The show includes traditional animals as well as imaginary ones. Dawson has been working with wood since childhood. But it wasn't until a few years ago that he began sculpting large animals. His half-scale lion was exhibited in the "Utah 87: Crafts" show. This unpainted piece, rubbed with linseed oil, is one of the sculptures on display here.

"Winter's Carousel" continues at the UDC Gallery, 38 W. Second South, through Feb. 11. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.