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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: lennie@tampabay.com

  1. Review: Trenton Doyle Hancock's wild world on display at Ringling

    Visual Arts


    There is imagination and then there is Trenton Doyle Hancock imagination, where wild things are.

    Characters named Junior Mound, Bringback, Torpedo Boy, Baby Curt and Shy Jerry roam from his mind into galleries at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, wreaking a quiet havoc, realized in drawings, prints, sculptures and — a first for Hancock — a video.

    "EMIT: What the Bringback Brought" was created as a result of Hancock's winning the Greenfield Prize in 2013, awarded by the Greenfield Foundation and the Hermitage Artist Retreat. The prize includes $30,000 and a requirement to produce a new work within two years. ...

    Trenton Doyle Hancock, Baby Curt Orange, acrylic on illustration board, 2014.
  2. Morean, Silver Meteor and Florida CraftArt shows on spring art scene

    Visual Arts

    Spring brings lots of new gallery shows. Here are three examples of the diversity you'll find throughout our region.

    Lennie Bennett, Times art critic


    2213 E Sixth Ave. between 22nd and 23rd streets in Ybor City, Tampa

    Owner Michael Murphy shuttered his gallery in a historic casita, one of the little wood-frame houses in Ybor City, for 10 months to address major structural issues such as shoring up a sagging foundation. You won't see all that work but he has added fresh paint to spiff up the interior. ...

    Carrie Smith, Nascent, 2014, oil on canvas, at the Morean Arts Center.
  3. Masked wrestlers meet art at Pale Horse's Cinco de Mayo show

    Visual Arts


    Professional wrestling and art inhabiting the same space?

    Prepare to abandon your skepticism, if only for a night, with Pale Horse Lucha, a multimedia arts experience at Nova 535 to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

    The event centers on Lucha Libre, a style of wrestling that originated in Mexico (translated as "free wrestling") and became wildly popular there in the mid-20th century. For years it had a small following in the United States but interest has grown to the point that Lucha Libre is now considered mainstream. Lucha Libre decor pops up everywhere from St. Petersburg's Red Mesa Cantina, where vintage wrestling posters line the bathrooms and the bar is nicknamed the "Lucha Bar," to Tampa's Urban Cantina, where a wrestling mask is part of the restaurant's logo....

    Images of Parks’ luchador characters — Oráculo, Renata Calavera, Serpentico and Balam — hang in the Pale Horse Studio. Parks has been a fan of Lucha Libre since he witnessed his first match in Tijuana.
  4. Michael Tomor has bold goals for the Tampa Museum of Art

    Visual Arts


    Michael Tomor has been on the job for less than a month but he already has clear goals.

    Tomor, 52, is the new director of the Tampa Museum of Art, and he comes with a reputation for outreach that engages broad swaths of the public. The former director of the El Paso Museum of Art has been especially successful developing programs for those who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder....

    Michael Tomor, the new director of the Tampa Museum of Art and the former director of the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas, is well into planning the future exhibition schedule.
  5. Art events to consider this weekend: Retro Beach Bash, Morean Off the Wall auction

    Visual Arts

    There's lots going on around the area but here are two arts events in St. Petersburg this weekend you'll want to consider.

    Retro Beach Bash, Friday at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE, at 8 p.m.: The party celebrates "Life's a Beach: Photographs by Martin Parr," which closes Sunday. It's a casual party hosted by the Contemporaries, the museum support group whose members share an interest in contemporary art. It includes an open bar cocktail buffet and live music. Admission is $100 and includes a one-year membership to the museum plus a Contemporaries membership. fine-arts.org/rsvp or (727) 896-2667....

    Martin Parr’s England, Weymouth (2000) from the Life’s a Beach exhibit, celebrated Friday at the Museum of Fine Arts.
  6. Florida Artists' Group's exhibition fits 95 works into Leepa-Rattner

    Visual Arts

    TARPON SPRINGS — When we visit an art exhibition, some of our pleasure with it is subliminal: The way in which it's presented to us is a big part of our perception of it.

    Installation design is mostly the responsibility of a curator and can be as artful as the art itself. Group shows are the most challenging because there are the often dueling directives to create a sense of harmony among everything while letting each individual work shine....

  7. New Trenton Doyle Hancock art show comes to Ringling

    Visual Arts

    If Trenton Doyle Hancock didn't have such a whimsical style, his art would be terrifying. He has become known, admired and awarded for drawings, paintings, sculptures and performances that chronicle an epic mythology he has created. In it, good and evil, darkness and light, battle for supremacy in the form of characters inspired by artists ranging from Hieronymus Bosch to R. Crumb.

    The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has a new show of his work that continues his themes in "EMIT: What the Bringback Brought." In 2013, Hancock received the prestigious Greenfield Prize, which included $30,000 toward a body of work over a two-year period. "EMIT" is the result and includes something new to the artist's oeuvre, a film. ...

    Trenton Doyle Hancock, Trent the Toymaker.
  8. Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges Hall discusses Norman Rockwell's famous painting

    Visual Arts

    Ruby Bridges became a civil rights icon when she was 6. Yet she didn't realize it for decades.

    The world knows her as the little girl in Norman Rockwell's famous 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, a black child being escorted to a white New Orleans school by federal marshals.

    The work is part of "American Chronicles: the Art of Norman Rockwell," an exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art. Bridges Hall (her married name) will lecture there on Tuesday, recounting her memories of that time and how those events have shaped her life....

    "The Problem We All Live With" is a 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell. An iconic image of the civil rights movement in the United States, it depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African-American girl, on her way into an all-white public school in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 1960, during the process of racial desegregation. [Times files]
  9. Mainsail Art Festival names first-time Best of Show winner

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Michel Delgado, a soft-spoken artist who creates powerful mixed-media paintings, won his first Best of Mainsail award and $10,000 at the 40th annual Mainsail Art Festival. It validates an already successful career and recognition by private collectors around the world.

    George Bolge, a veteran museum professional and chief operating officer of the Museum of Art in DeLand, said it was "the intensity of content that appealed to me immediately."...

  10. For artists, getting in the Mainsail Art Festival is never a sure thing

    Visual Arts

    Visitors to this year's Mainsail Art Festival will find the beloved and familiar mix at work. But specific artists? You never know.

    Mainsail arrives for its 40th year Saturday and Sunday with the white artists' tents jammed into St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, each filled with paintings, ceramics, sculptures, jewelry or photographs. Many of the artists who create the works seem to return year after year and we assume they are rewarded a coveted place on the artist list because of their longevity. ...

    John Bayalis works on a water color painting in his St. Petersburg home Thursday, April 10, 2015. The painter is a long-time exhibitor at the Mainsail Arts Festival. 
  11. Pendant Palooza springs onto Second Saturday Art Walk radar with Jack-in-the-Box

    Visual Arts

    Recognizing and acknowledging creativity is a big part of my job, so when this cute Jack-in-the-box arrived on my desk, I was curious.

    It came from Zen Glass Studio, 600 27th St. S, St. Petersburg, to promote its Pendant Palooza event, which will feature about 50 glass artists and their jewelry pendants on Saturday.

    I appreciate a good gimmick but I also want it to be relevant. I turned the crank and out popped Jack, of course, but accessorized with a glass pendant. ...

    Pendant Palooza at Zen Glass features dozens of glass artists making pendants for Second Saturday Art Walk in St. Pete.
  12. Art goes big in murals on walls of downtown St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts


    Let's take a walk. Let's put away our phones, pads and earbuds. Let's take our time and enjoy a delightful hour or so roaming through the Central Arts District discovering its murals. You can go it alone or join a tour every Saturday, organized by Florida CraftArt, with a docent, often the organization's executive director, Diane Shelly.

    Ten mural seekers, plus Times photographer Monica Herndon and I, joined her on a recent Saturday morning to check out the 32 (and counting) examples lining the businesses along Central Avenue and First Avenue N between Fifth and Ninth streets. The walking tour lasts between 60 and 90 minutes most Saturdays. This was an unusual Saturday because, as we launched ourselves onto the sidewalk, the skies opened and poured down rain. ...

    More than two dozen murals line the businesses along Central Avenue and First Avenue N between Fifth and Ninth avenues in downtown St. Petersburg.
  13. New exhibits open during Second Saturday Art Walk

    Visual Arts

    The monthly St. Petersburg Second Saturday Art Walk rolls around this Saturday, having become more than a stroll along a few downtown blocks. The event now covers five designated arts districts and more than 40 galleries and artists' studios (which are often not open to visitors). Many galleries use the occasion to debut new exhibitions. Among them this month are ARTicles Art Gallery, 1445 Central Ave., and Craftsman House, 2955 Central Ave. ...

    A new exhibit at ARTicles Art Gallery features the work of Jeannine Hascall.
  14. 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.
  15. 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....

    A reproduction of the  Mona Lisa and Philippe Halsman's Self Portrait as Mona Lisa for Dali & da Vinci: Minds, Machines and Masterpieces.