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Sharing art can provide a long-lasting gift

No surprise that art-related gifts are among my favorites. What has surprised me as I get older is my changing definition of "gift." I'm not fixated anymore on something tangible. Though I still love to receive interesting things, I enjoy even more the gift of a shared experience.

Looking at art with a friend or loved one isn't the same as most outings. Watching a movie, for example is physically passive. You're discouraged from expressing immediate reactions in a theater. Shopping together? Fun, sure, but not exactly an idea-driven activity. A meal is certainly a form of communion and can be an opportunity for great conversation but the conversation rarely needs the meal to go forward.

When we look at art with others, we get to know ourselves and our companions in ways we might never have otherwise. It should be, above all, a subjective experience. Forget academic wisdom. What about a work of art touches you? Love it, hate it, shrug with indifference, what about it elicits your response?

Museums are the most obvious places to visit and I highly recommend them. Wherever you live in the Tampa Bay area, you'll find one not too far away. (More about them in next Sunday's Latitudes.)

Today, I am extolling the pleasure of gallery-going. Galleries are a great entry point for art appreciation. They're intimate and usually have a specific focus related to the preferences of their owners. Unless it's one of the big shots in a major city such as New York, a gallery isn't an impressive moneymaker. Most gallery owners are in it because they love art. And they love talking about the art and artists they represent.

Because of their intimacy, going to a gallery might seem intimidating in the same way going to a boutique would be compared to a department store. There can be a sense of responsibility to buy something — you know the feeling. But you shouldn't feel that way. Owners expect a lot of looking and I have found they really like talking about their art. I have learned a lot from so many gallery owners even before I began writing about art professionally.

If space permitted, I would have a long list of area galleries to check out. You can find a slew of them at and here is a small sampling that indicates the variety throughout our region.

I'm spending Christmas with my son and guess what we're doing instead of exchanging gifts?

Lennie Bennett can be reached at or (727) 893-8293.

Clayton Galleries

4105 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. (813) 831-3753

This gallery generally concentrates on a single artist for its rotating shows but the holiday exhibition is a group one with all the participants among those with ongoing representation by the gallery's owner, Cathy Clayton. They submitted works that measure no more than 24 inches so 28 artists' works are on the wall of the fairly small space. In addition to paintings, photography and works on paper, sculptures and mobiles are displayed. Shown is Douglas Boutilier's Young Girl and Still Life in casein and tempera.

Image from Clayton Galleries

The Plainsmen Gallery

2450 Sunset Point Road, Clearwater. (727) 726-5100

This venue specializes in wildlife and Western artists. If you love nature and landscapes, or enjoy the nostalgia of the Old West, the gallery is a treat. Like Clayton Galleries, its holiday show features smaller works by popular artists who usually create larger works. Plainsmen Gallery also sells prints. Shown is Last of the Remuda, an oil painting by Tom Browning.

Image from Plainsmen Gallery

Salt Creek Artworks Galleries

1600 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 894-2653

Salt Creek is atypical in that you likely won't find someone there to show you around. A number of artists have studios there so you do see them coming and going (and sometimes you get invited into a studio). Lance Rodgers has his studio there and does most of the curating for exhibitions there. Right now, Rocky Bridges has a one-man show. Bridges is well-known in Florida and his reputation has become a national one, too. He generally works in mixed media using found objects for his assertive works. Shown is his mixed-media work Structured Truth (Prayer for Helen).

Image from Salt Creek Artworks

Sharing art can provide a long-lasting gift 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 3:30am]
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