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Lennie Bennett, Times Art Critic

Lennie Bennett

Lennie Bennett joined the Times in 1995 as the "On the Town" columnist and also wrote general assignment stories on a variety of topics, including local arts, cultural issues and philanthropy. She became the art critic in 2002. She reviews the visual arts in all forms throughout the Tampa Bay area and, on occasion, nationally. She has also been a regular panelist for various arts organizations.

Phone: (727) 893-8293


  1. Art in focus: 'Lamentation' by a student of Rembrandt

    Visual Arts

    Easter Sunday is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most joyous and triumphant event in the Christian year. According to Christian faith, that ascension to eternal life had a terrible cost: Jesus had to die a human death by crucifixion, a slow, painful and humiliating method reserved for slaves and criminals. The early Church did not dwell on it because of its indignity. But Jesus' humanity became a central part of the Passion story, so the crucifixion became a meaningful subject for art during the Middle Ages. • Lamentation, a painting from the permanent collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, depicts the time after Jesus was taken from the cross and before his interment in the tomb. That moment, too, became a common subject....

    Lamentation, student of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, c. 1650, oil on canvas.
  2. Review: Exhibition finds the fun in Dalí-da Vinci connection

    Visual Arts


    Until recently, I would have said the odds were zilch that I would visit a museum exhibition containing Mona Lisa and a Zorb ball. And that they would make sense together. But there I was, in the venerable Salvador Dalí Museum, getting a kick out of "Dalí and da Vinci: Minds, Machines and Masterpieces," an exhibition that examines similar creative impulses in Leonardo da Vinci and Salvador Dalí. • Setting up a comparison with Leonardo would seem to be a doomed exercise for the unfortunate person being measured against a man considered to possess one of the finest minds — if not the finest — in human history. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer — and genius at all of them. • Then again, Dalí was never one to be left standing in the doorway. His roving mind and outsized ego found an affinity with the Italian polymath as he matured as an artist. In the mid 20th century, Dalí even created a chart ranking great artists in which he put himself slightly below Leonardo but well above Pablo Picasso....

    Steve Sloan, 70, right checks out The Breathing Room 
at the Salvador Dal? Museum.
  3. Yard sale is all about art

    Visual Arts

    Many people who finish spring cleaning with an abundance of unwanted household items have a yard sale. When an artist such as Coralette Damme cleans house, the result is a trove of past work that lands in her "yART Sale." "It's like a yard sale but for art," she writes. Damme creates and exhibits in galleries and at art festivals under the name Crafty Hag. This sale will feature paintings and prints (some designed to be stationery) at reduced prices. Even a few pieces of stained glass, which she stopped making years ago, will be available. The event is Saturday at Damme's studio, 2021 12th St. N, St. Petersburg, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ...

    Coralette Damme, O.K. Bear, block print.
  4. Norman Rockwell show at Tampa Museum of Art an enjoyable eye-opener

    Visual Arts


    Most of what can be said of Norman Rockwell as an artist we have heard: his fame and success as an illustrator, his critical dismissal by the art world for decades, his critical rehabilitation in recent years as a painter. I weighed in on the trajectory of his career after seeing an exhibition of his work at the Orlando Museum of Art in 2008. I realized two things then that I still believe: An appreciation of Rockwell's native talent is only possible after viewing his original paintings, which were not seen by the public for years, and that appreciation has its limits....

    Norman Rockwell, The Discovery, cover illustration for the Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 29, 1956.
  5. Exhibit gives peek into Arts and Crafts Museum collection

    Visual Arts

    The dazzling American Arts and Crafts Museum won't open until 2017 but you can get a small preview of its stellar collection at an exhibition opening Friday with a free reception at 6 p.m. "Passionate Design: The American Arts and Crafts Movement" at the Henry B. Plant Museum, 401 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa (on the University of Tampa campus), features furniture and objects from the Two Red Roses Foundation created by Rudy Ciccarello, who is the new museum's founder. Shown is a 1914 ceramic bowl by Edith Brown and Fannie Levine of Paul Revere Pottery/Saturday Evening Girls, Boston. A free talk by curator Susan Montgomery is at 7 p.m. at the Plant Museum, which has a permanent collection of art, furniture and decorative arts from America's Gilded Age at the turn of the 19th century. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 adult, $7 seniors and students and $5 children 4 to 12. or (813) 254-1891....

    1914 ceramic bowl by Edith Brown and Fannie Levine of Paul Revere Pottery/Saturday Evening Girls, Boston
  6. Variety takes over at Morean Arts Center

    Visual Arts

    The Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, has five new shows, so count on seeing a lot of diversity and uniqueness. It's especially heartening to see space given to students and creative people who seldom have an outlet such as the Morean.

    "KYLE: Catastrophes"

    The artist, who uses the name KYLE, works in mixed media and creates site-specific installations inspired by the drama of world events....

    Joseph, Wide Eyes on a Yellow Field, 2014, acrylic on canvas.
  7. St. Petersburg's arts and crafts museum begins parking deck


    The planned $70 million Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement in St. Petersburg is closer to reality now that ground has been broken on its parking garage.

    This is a significant development for two reasons: It's a concrete indication of museum founder Rudy Ciccarello's intention and financial ability to follow through with his plans. And it has been designed, unlike most parking garages, to be a harmonious architectural and aesthetic component of the museum complex. ...

    The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is shown with its parking garage, now under construction, that has been designed to be an aesthetically component in the overall design. 

A view of the garage from the southeast corner at 3rd St. N and 4th Ave.

 [Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement]
  8. Salvador Dalí, Leonardo da Vinci, surprisingly, have much in common

    Visual Arts

    It might not have occurred to many of us, but Leonardo da Vinci and Salvador Dalí have a lot in common, and a new exhibition at the Salvador Dalí Museum, at 1 Dalí Blvd. in St. Petersburg (Bayshore Drive at Fifth Avenue SE), puts the two artists side by side for a comparison. Juxtaposition has been the theme of several of the museum's shows, with earlier ones pairing the great 20th century Spanish painter with Andy Warhol and, most recently, Pablo Picasso. This is an education show, says curator Peter Tush, which compares Leonardo's and Dalí's use of art to explore mathematics, science, social ideas and visual perception. "Dalí and da Vinci/ Minds, Machines and Masterpieces" has little original art, just a few works from the museum's collection. Most are facsimiles (from Leonardo's notebooks, for example) or reproductions, such as one of the Renaissance master's fresco, The Last Supper, and Dalí's homage to it. There are a few models of some of his many inventions assembled according to his plans. Leonardo's glider, for example, hangs in the atrium, accompanied by a video simulating its flight above downtown St. Petersburg. It's a lively, delightful show that makes science and math lessons fun. It continues through July 26. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily with extended hours to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Admission is $24 adults; $22 seniors, military, police and firefighters; $17 teens and college students with ID; $10 children 6 to 12; and free for children younger than 6. On Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., admission is $10 adults and $8 children. The museum will be closed March 27-29 during the Grand Prix races. or (727) 823-3767....

    Reproduction of The Sacrament of the Last Supper, by Salvador Dalí, 1955, oil on canvas, Dale Chester Collection.
  9. Ringling Museum's conservation lab preserves, protects vast art collection

    Visual Arts


    King Philip IV of Spain is looking good considering his age. His portrait, nearly 400 years old, by the great 17th century Spanish artist Diego Velazquez, sits on an easel in the conservation laboratory at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. It is being readied for its trip to Paris for a Velazquez exhibition co-organized by the Louvre at the Grand Palais.

    Barbara A. Ramsay is the person in charge of King Philip's packing and his baggage. Like all old art, his portrait has its share....

    Chief conservator Barbara A. Ramsay  in the conservation laboratory at The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Behind her is the Velazquez portrait of Philip IV, King of Spain, which is being prepared to be sent to an exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris.
 [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  10. Review: 'Italian Traditions' brings other glass artists to Chihuly Collection

    Visual Arts


    It was a happy sight: Crowds of people, mostly tourists deduced from overheard conversations, exiting and entering the dazzling galleries of the Chihuly Collection and their permanent installations of glass by the famous Dale Chihuly.

    If you're a local and have been to the collection a few times, you probably haven't visited in a while, since the Chihuly glass doesn't change. Now that the institution has a small special exhibitions space, you have reason to return. The most recent offering is "Italian Traditions," a show of 20 contemporary glass artists who mostly use traditional glass-blowing techniques perfected in Italy centuries ago. ...

    Stephen Rolfe Powell’s works include huge vessels composed of hundreds of colored glass canes as well as platters that are more straightforward.
  11. Gardens bloom in show at Florida CraftArt

    Visual Arts

    We haven't been brutalized by winter as those in the Northeast have, so we don't yearn for spring as they do. But spring still has a lot of weight here as a time of renewal and a last gasp of lovely weather before we face Florida's enervating summer heat and humidity. Gardens are at their loveliest now, and we have plenty of literal examples available to us. Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, presents "Garden of Earthly Pleasures" with more than 30 artists who create fine-craft examples of garden adornments such as fountains and sculptures along with art that summons the inspirations found in gardens. A free opening reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday will feature models wearing garden-inspired costumes by participating artists. The show continues through April 18. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Free. Lennie Bennett, Times art critic...

    Florida CraftArt
  12. Lots of excitement at Dunedin Fine Art Center!

    Visual Arts

    There's something endearing about an event that announces itself annually with a bunch of exclamation points and all-caps lettering, the equivalent of a galactic shout-out.

    CONTAIN IT! and TRASHY TREASURES! at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin, on Friday and Saturday is old enough and successful enough to transition to more understatement, but the unrestrained enthusiasm is part of the event's charm. And it has now become a TRIfecta! with EAT IT!...

    An example of a POD container’s transformation from the 2014 CONTAIN IT! at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
  13. Gasparilla Festival of the Arts announces winners

    Visual Arts

    Thousands converged on the 45th annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Saturday but one person was probably more closely watched by the artist than any other among the throng. Elaine Gustafson is this year's juror, or judge, for the event and in her hands lay the decision for picking winning artists who would share $75,000 in prize money. This was a homecoming of sorts for Gustafson, who is the curator of collections at the Witherspoon Art Museum at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Before she assumed that job in 2009, she was director of exhibitions and collections and curator of contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art. ...

    Carolina Cleere’s Honey Child (mixed media) takes the Raymond James Financial Best of Show Award.
  14. Ringling Museum's 'Re:Purposed' show meant to inspire, aspire

    Visual Arts


    Art made from found or recycled materials has become a ubiquitous and varied form since its origins in the early 20th century, seen across the creative board from the humble outsider art of self-taught individuals to a line of superstars that includes Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg. Because it covers such vast territory, organizing an exhibition of contemporary examples acknowledging that variety while still having a central, focused idea behind it is a challenge....

    Courtesy of the Ringling Museum of Art
  15. Nude paintings are part of Gasparilla Festival of the Arts history

    Visual Arts

    We can thank, in part, a painting of a nude woman for the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts as we know it today, celebrating its 45th year on Saturday and Sunday in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

    Decades ago, a juried art exhibit was part of the Florida State Fair held in Tampa. It wasn't called Gasparilla back then, but it was scheduled in conjunction with Tampa's Gasparilla pirate invasion. In 1969, complaints were made to the fair organizers about nude paintings in the show. There was the inevitable bristling on both sides of the censorship issue, which, along with the fair's move to a location outside the city, resulted in a conscious uncoupling between the art show and the fair. ...

    Leif Johansen, mixed media.