Make us your home page

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 preview: new shows opening in Sarasota and Tampa

    Visual Arts

    Lots of new shows are coming to museums and galleries in west central Florida so there's (at least) one near you. Better yet, drive outside your comfort zone to one you haven't visited. Here are two suggestions to get you started.

    Art Center Sarasota is one of the oldest of its kind in our region and the oldest cultural institution in Sarasota. Founded in 1926, it grew to be an arts hub as the city became a nationally famous arts community populated by big names. Its building, constructed in the 1940s, is designed in the Sarasota School of Architecture, and subsequent additions have made it a true arts center with space for educational and social programs along with exhibitions....

  2. Preview: New quilts and fiber art shows at Dunedin Fine Art Center

    Visual Arts

    Summer at the Dunedin Fine Art Center means quilts. For years, the center has exhibited fine-craft quilts from national and area groups, expanding our definition of them. Still rooted in their humble origins as inexpensive coverings made for warmth from fabric scraps, the quilts you'll see here are not humble and most are no longer hand-sewn. That hand-sewing component was an issue for quilting purists but most now acknowledge the merits of computerized machines that still allow for artistic creativity....

  3. Curator at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg resigns unexpectedly

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jennifer Hardin, the longtime chief curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, resigned Friday. The announcement, sent Friday via email to the museum's board of trustees, was unexpected.

    "I think the world of Jennifer," said Kent Lydecker, the museum's director. "I can't give you any specific reason. I sincerely regret her decision."

    "I have immensely enjoyed my work at the museum," Hardin said. "I don't have any plans right now." ...

    Jennifer Hardin, 51, curated many exhibits, such as ones on Monet, O’Keeffe and folk art.
  4. Art review: William Pachner's powerful response to Holocaust still resonates

    Visual Arts


    William Pachner turned 100 on April 17. For almost 50 of those years, he had been a fine artist, putting his brushes down by 1999 only after he became blind. Two exhibitions, at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg and the Florida Holocaust Museum, honor this milestone and his remarkable career.

    Pachner didn't seem destined to be a serious painter. He was born in Czechoslovakia and studied art there but in young adulthood chose a career as a commercial illustrator. He came to the United States in 1939 and freelanced until about a year later, when Esquire magazine hired him as its art director. ...

    William Pachner, Landscape of the River Sola, 1966, oil on canvas.
  5. Tampa Bay History Center celebrates St. Augustine at 450

    Visual Arts

    Happy 450th birthday, St. Augustine!

    The Tampa Bay History Center honors the occasion with an exhibition, opening Saturday, featuring more than 40 rare maps, charts and prints that trace the city's evolution from a gritty Spanish fort in the 16th century to a pleasure spot for the wealthy in the late 19th century.

    St. Augustine is the oldest permanent European settlement in North America, founded in 1565. Its ownership bounced back and forth between Spain and Great Britain, with plenty of harassment from France, before it became a U.S. territory in the early 19th century. Its location on the Atlantic Ocean made it a strategic attraction for European countries battling for North American supremacy in the early years of settlement and attractive in a recreational way three centuries later to Northerners seeking respite from harsh winters. Henry Flagler made the migration possible with a new rail line into St. Augustine and his sumptuous Ponce de Leon Hotel, now part of Flagler College. He would later extend the railroad system all the way down Florida's east coast. (If you want a taste of that Gilded Era, make a detour to the Henry B. Plant Museum to the University of Tampa, another sumptuous hotel by another Florida developer and railroad baron. The museum is the lovingly restored Tampa Hotel that Plant built for visitors to the west coast.)...

    Detroit Photographic Co., King Street, St. Augustine, 1902. King Street was, and is, one of the principal thoroughfares in the city of St. Augustine. It runs through the center of the city to the Matanzas River and provides the southern boundary to the public lawn, depicted on the right side of the image.
  6. Collectors Circle selects Impressionist painting for Museum of Fine Arts

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Most museum leaders never know what, if any, gifts they'll receive each year. But at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, at least one addition to its permanent collection is a given.

    That's thanks to the Collectors Circle, a group of patrons who for 20 years have raised money for the annual purchase. They make it fun, with a twist of intrigue during a dinner at which three possibilities are presented, then voted on by the members. It's rigged only in that the choices are selected and approved by the museum's curators and fall within the group's budget. ...

    John Leslie Breck, Evening in Giverny, c. 1891, oil on canvas.
  7. Review: Two photo exhibitions offer different kinds of glamor

    Visual Arts


    The best fashion photography hovers between commerce and art: It has a job to do but aspires to be museum-worthy. We can tick off many famous names who have achieved this balance, such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Annie Leibovitz.

    "High Fashion: Kristian Schuller, Billy & Hells and Taka Kobayashi" at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts certainly looks like fashion photography, but it isn't. The four have taken this category within the photographic medium and used its best elements to craft glamorous portraits that are sometimes bizarre or mysterious but always gorgeous visually. ...

    Billy & Hells, Untitled, 1977.
  8. Three shows: Studio@620, Hillsborough Community College and Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art

    Visual Arts

    Unlike most museum exhibitions, those at area galleries have a shorter life: See them sooner rather than miss them later. You'll find an extensive list in our calendar but here are three good starting points.

    Lennie Bennett, Times art critic

    Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art

    1288 N Palm Ave., Sarasota or (941) 366-2454

    The first of a two-part exhibition, "The Lightness of Being: Abstracts, Part 1," is on view now through June 13. The late Allyn Gallup, who died in 2014, had a keen eye for talent and was a leading art dealer in Sarasota (and beyond) after opening his gallery in 2001. His wife, Sheila, continues to run it. Eighteen painters and sculptors are featured in this show, including John Chamberlain and Syd Solomon, two nationally known Sarasota residents. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Free admission. ...

    Gaia by Joanna Swierczek at HCC Ybor Art Gallery.
  9. Perspective: The Pier's point, considered (w/video)


    The Pier has always been in my life.

    I was born and have lived in St. Petersburg for 64 years except for a college detour. When I was a child, the Pier was a big box of a building I remember as old, dark and kind of smelly. We visited for ice cream and a welcome bay breeze, respites from a generally un-air-conditioned city. It was also the home of a local TV station, which aired live the Captain Mac kids' show and I was on it! When I was a teenager, the Pier was an empty, hulking platform after the Million Dollar Pier was demolished in 1967. As a young adult, I saw the inverted pyramid rise and witnessed the controversy it engendered. For several years, I have followed the discussions and debates over its fate and replacement....

    The Railroad Pier, built privately in the late 1800s, had a simple utilitarian purpose on a working waterfront: connect train to ship.
  10. 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, storyboard of Abduction by Bringbacks, pen on paper, 2014.
  11. 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. ...

    Charles Parkhill, wood sculpture, at Florida CraftArt.
  12. 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....

    Digital illustrator Chris Parks, aka Pale Horse, and his event partner,  Casey Paquet holding a Chris Parks mask, with panels featuring original Pale Horse luchador character, Oraculo,  in the Pale Horse Studio Thursday, 4/23/2015. Oraculo is one of four original Pale Horse luchador characters to be featured in the Pale Horse Lucha Art Exhibit and Live Wrestling on Cinco de Mayo, Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at NOVA 535, 535 Dr. Martin Luther King St N, St Petersburg  "Luchadores will be trapped in the Pale Horse universe, said Parks on an Instagram description of his show, "smashing snakes, fighting beasts, riding stallions and traveling through bizarre dimensions!"
  13. 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.
  14. 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. 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.
  15. 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....