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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

Email: lbennett@tampabay.com

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  1. Peter Max's art at Tampa Museum delights and disappoints

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA

    Peter Max had a real moment, an important moment, in art. In the 1960s, he, perhaps more than any other artist, addressed the counterculture zeitgeist on a level that resonated with a much broader population than that of the love-and-peace movement.

    His interpretation of pop art, which he fused with psychedelic imagery, seemed so fresh and original. Most of all, during such a turbulent time in America's history, it was positive and uplifting rather than threatening. His posters adorned walkups in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of hippiedom, as well as fraternity houses and dorm rooms. He did one for National Library Week in 1969. That's as mainstream as you can get, and yet he didn't compromise his vision, using a book as a portal into a place of creativity....

    The prolific Peter Max, 78, has designed postage stamps, airplanes, accessories and home decor. He also has painted portraits of presidents and celebrities.
  2. Art Planner: Ya La'ford's 'labyrinths' at Chihuly Collection, plus gallery shows

    Visual Arts

    SIGHT AND SOUND: YA LA'FORD AT CHIHULY COLLECTION

    Ya La'ford's murals have become increasingly immersive, full-on installations. Give her a space and she will cover every square inch with mysterious linear or geometric patterns that make viewers feel as if they have entered either an ancient Mayan temple or an alien starship.

    A new interactive work at the Chihuly Collection, 400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, will include her signature "labyrinths," enhanced with LED lighting and a sound component, which should further the sense of being in another dimension. Grounding it all will be recorded readings by Helen Pruitt Wallace, St. Petersburg's poet laureate. ...

    A painting by Kate Norris is in the Summer Show at Clayton Galleries.
  3. Art planner: Cool Art Show comes to St. Petersburg, new gallery shows around Tampa Bay

    Visual Arts

    COOL ART SHOW: IT REALLY IS COOL

    Its name would be a cruel joke in this summer of our sweltering discontent if not for its literalness: The Cool Art Show is air-conditioned! For almost 30 years, the event, organized by the Professional Association of Visual Artists, has been parked in the St. Petersburg Coliseum, a necessary departure from most art festivals, which are held outside in more temperate weather. Also unlike most, rain can't dampen it. It's intimate, with 75 artists and crafters displaying their work so you can navigate all the booths without getting visual overload. ...

    Justin Rabideau’s sculptures are in the spotlight.
  4. Art planner: Big savings at Chihuly Collection, big opportunities at Saturday ArtWalk

    Visual Arts

    BIG DEAL: CHIHULY COLLECTION DISCOUNT

    Happy sixth anniversary, Chihuly Collection! The gallery is a colorful spot in downtown St. Petersburg, filled with the luminous vessels and multipiece installations of studio glass rock star Dale Chihuly. And at the gallery entrance on Beach Drive, its rose-colored sculpture that looks like a giant stick of rock candy has been a beacon. The interior is filled with examples of Chihuly's work such as the large orbs and the glass "garden," Persian ceiling and chandeliers composed of hundreds of pieces. ...

    People walk along Central Avenue during a recent Second Saturday Art Walk.
  5. Ringling Museum Asian art donor sues to get millions back

    Courts

    Sounds of Japanese and Indian drumming filled the air. Hundreds of guests sampled tea and watched karate demonstrations and dancers swirling in colorful costumes.

    But one person did not attend the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art's community festival in May, celebrating the opening of the Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art.

    Helga Wall-Apelt. ...

    The Center for Asian Art opened in May at the Ringling museum. The main gallery likely will continue to bear Wall-Apelt’s name.
  6. Art Planner: New photography shows of Horst and Jerry Uelsmann

    Visual Arts

    HORST AT THE DALÍ: HAUTE PHOTOGRAPHY

    Horst P. Horst (1906-99) was a giant of 20th century photography, best known for his high-fashion photos and portraits of famous people and their homes. "Horst: Photography — Fashion and Surrealism" at the Dalí Museum is an expansive look at his 60-year career that was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. ...

    Horst P. Horst’s iconic 1939 photo of a designer corset, at the Dal? Museum.
  7. The new Center for Asian Art at Ringling Museum makes a big impression

    Visual Arts

    SARASOTA

    The Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art is a big name for a big project at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

    It opened grandly in May with galleries for its permanent collection and notable loans — a study area that will serve both visiting scholars and a new Asian arts program for students at Florida State University, which owns the museum, and a lecture room that can accommodate an audience of 125. ...

    A view of the contemporary art gallery in the Ringling Museum’s Center for Asian Art.
  8. Art planner: Norma Kamali's designs in Tampa, art of pinball in Tarpon Springs

    Visual Arts

    SHOW-STOPPING: NORMA KAMALI

    Designer Norma Kamali is a living legend. The overall arc of her career has been to thrive in the brutal world of fashion fickleness on her own terms. Creating great clothes is important, but Kamali has created trends over the years. A 1980 collection based on a sweatshirt was way outside the fashion box. It was a smash hit and was one of the leading examples of the trend to more casual dressing. Her bathing suits have been worn by celebrities through the decades, from Farrah Fawcett in that famous red number in the 1970s to Beyoncé today. Her contributions have been honored many times, most recently by the CFDA, the preeminent fashion industry association, with a lifetime achievement award....

    A show with vintage pinball machines at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art includes an interactive gallery where visitors can play them.
  9. Philanthropists Tom and Mary James unveil plans for new St. Petersburg museum

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking for spectacular? Philanthropists Tom and Mary James are bringing it to downtown with a new museum that will make a commanding architectural statement and be filled with works from their vast art collection.

    Plans for the grand project came one step closer to reality Thursday when the Jameses revealed their vision and never-before-seen details to St. Petersburg's City Council. The $55 million Tom and Mary James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art will be at 100 Central Ave. Their desire, said Tom James, executive chairman of Raymond James Financial, "is to create a real arts destination in St. Pete with another high-quality museum."...

    John Coleman's sculpture, 1876 - Gall, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse will be in the James Museum collection. Image from Tom James
  10. Art planner: Pop artist Peter Max, photographs of Cuba, and primate art

    Visual Arts

     

    PETER MAX: 50 COSMIC YEARS

     

    Peter Max was the visual voice for the Age of Aquarius, the era of the 1960s and 1970s which saw the rise of Pop culture and him as one its most famous interpreters. "Peter Max: 50 Years of Cosmic Dreaming" now open at the Tampa Museum of Art covers those years and subsequent ones with 90 career-spanning paintings and prints. His signature style during his early years, sometimes described as psychedelic, used bright colors and clearly delineated but exaggerated figures. He still uses vibrant colors but now much of his work is less graphic, more brush-stroked. Through the years, he has been commissioned for designs large and small, from a postage stamp to a jumbo jet. The show continues through Sept. 10....

    Shana Moulton’s Whispering Pines series is at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.
  11. 'Experience Cuba' show features Clyde Butcher photos at St. Petersburg Museum of History

    Visual Arts

    The St. Petersburg Museum of History is busy reinventing itself.

    The most recent manifestation of that new direction is "Experience Cuba," which opens today with several components, the starring one a portfolio of Clyde Butcher photographs.

    The strategy for several years has been to bring in temporary exhibitions such as this one. The practice is common in museums, even in many of the greatest ones, and generates ongoing interest and feeds the public's hunger for something different. ...

    Nevin Sitler, historian and curator with the St. Petersburg Museum of History, puts the finishing touches on the installation of its new exhibition titled “Experience Cuba,” which features the photography of Clyde Butcher. [DIRK SHADD | Times] 
  12. Art Planner: Dalí Museum, Second Saturday ArtWalk and a summer group show

    Visual Arts

     

    LAST CALL: DISNEY AND DALÍ

     

    Procrastinate no more if you want to experience "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination" at the Dalí Museum because it ends Sunday. And it is an experiential show, part art, part history. It tells the stories of two creative geniuses, Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí, as they developed their parallel careers that intersected in collaborations and friendship and when each had become famous....

    The entrance of Dare to Dream: Disney & Dali Architects of the Imagination. A special exhibition at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.
  13. Art planner: Original art from Little Golden Books at Tampa Bay History Center

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA BAY HISTORY CENTER: GOLDEN STANDARD

    Almost every person I asked recently replied affirmatively to reading Little Golden Books as children and then, if applicable, reading them to their children. Since 1942, the series has been a beloved staple of children's literature with more than two billion reportedly sold. Its first books were 25 cents; today they're still inexpensive, most selling for a few dollars. ...

    The exhibition features art from Little Golden Books, such as The Great Big Fire Engine Book.
  14. Art planner: New art shows at area galleries and Sarasota's Ringling Museum

    Visual Arts

    THE RINGLING: TWO SMALL BUT GOOD SHOWS

    Art museumgoers sometimes overlook another museum on the John and Mable Ringling grounds: The Circus Museum and Tibbals Learning Center (included in admission) houses an extensive collection of circus memorabilia, including the personal train car used by the Ringlings when they traveled with the circus. The learning center features an extraordinary scale model of a circus with about a million pieces, built by philanthropist Howard Tibbals. Those are on view all the time, but the Circus Museum also features changing exhibitions. On view through June 20 is "Cirque/Cyrk/Cirkus: Circus Posters Across Europe." They advertise circuses throughout Europe during the 20th century and some have the quirkiness reflective of their regions. ...

    William Carter, Poem, gelatin silver print from “Exposure: Naked Before the Lens.”
  15. Paula Brett's large scale mandalas are shopping carts as art

    Visual Arts

    We associate mandalas, especially the Buddhist sand ones, with ritual and serenity, created slowly with solemn ceremony.

    Paula Brett's version relies more on chaos theory and the clash of shopping carts.

    Using a $3,000 grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the artist and her helpers have spent recent Saturdays whizzing them around vacant big box store parking lots in the predawn hours to form large mandalas. Yes, she does it with the permission of the stores; this is art, not a flash mob....

    The artist is in the parking lot of a Target store for a recent shopping cart art installation.