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: Thomas Chimes' eclectic art intrigues at Ringling

    Visual Arts


    Thomas Chimes could have been part of the fraternity known as the abstract expressionists with distinguished members such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman. But he was only in his early 30s in the 1950s when that New York art movement was in full flower and probably felt he had nothing new to add to it.

    So he formed a society of one and created art that interested him. If the works on view at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art are representative of his career, he's impossible to categorize. A vibrantly colored, enigmatic mural, Dada-esque metal sculptures and Old-Master influenced panel portraits of famous people he admired all come from the same hand. ...

    Thomas Chimes, Self Portrait, 1947, oil on masonite on panel.
  2. 10th Wearable Art Fashion Show is at Dunedin Fine Art Center

    Visual Arts

    A 10-year mark for an event makes it eligible for the tag "venerable," so the 10th annual Wearable Art Fashion Show on Saturday at the Dunedin Fine Art Center could indeed be considered venerable. But that's such a stately word for a show that remains fresh and fun and wears its decade lightly.

    In a new format, runway models will be young professionals from around the Tampa Bay area who are collaborating with designers. This will be interesting since some of the fashions in the past have often been, let's say, over the top. (Raw meat, anyone?)...

    Dunedin Fine Art Center
  3. Slow down and take a look at the art in Tampa's airport

    Visual Arts

    There are some new bright spots at Tampa International Airport: paintings by Neverne Covington, seated here in front of them where they hang on a wall of the main terminal on the walkway to the Marriott Hotel. This is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that the airport is full of lively art. True, a lot of it is in airside areas open only to ticket holders. But the next time you fly, slow down and take some moments to pause before the art you're about to hurry by. And spend time with art in other airports, too. Good for layovers....

    Neverne Covington with her paintings at Tampa International Airport.
  4. Video: Balloon sculpture at Museum of Fine Arts will blow you away

    Visual Arts

    If you've ever been impressed by a balloon animal, prepare to be blown away by a new art exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg made up entirely of balloons.

    Artist Jason Hackenwerth worked all day Monday to install a sculpture consisting of thousands of interwoven latex balloons that create a massive aqua-marine form titled Fleeting Innocence that will hang from the ceiling of the Conservatory at the museum. The art is expected to remain up for a couple of weeks. ...

    Artist Jason Hackenwerth lives in New York City. DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  5. Review: Michelangelo's life framed in 'Six Masterpieces'


    Michelangelo Buonarroti was, despite his first name, no angel. He was intensely, ungraciously competitive, overly sensitive to any behavior he considered a slight, and his loyalties and allegiance generally swung with the political winds. He left many projects unfinished to the dismay and anger of his patrons because he would lose interest when presented with a new challenge. His brilliance superseded those personality traits for many of the wealthy and powerful who coveted his art, and he did more than any other artist of his time to shift the perception of an artist as a gifted servant to one who was a superior individual because of those gifts. ...

  6. Review: Biography illuminates, but 'Mona Lisa' still an enigma


    The woman with the famously mysterious smile has herself been a mystery for centuries. In Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, Dianne Hales doesn't discover much about the subject of the most famous painting in the world that we don't already know, but she does put Lisa del Giocondo's life in credible context, bulking up the scant verifiable details with the social and political history of her times and weaving into the book a parallel biography of the life of Leonardo da Vinci, who immortalized her....

    Leonardo da Vinci kept the Mona Lisa with him until his death in 1519. Today it hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Lisa in the painting is Lisa Gherardini.
  7. New walking tour shows off St. Petersburg's many murals

    Visual Arts

    Anyone passing through the Central Arts District in downtown St. Petersburg can't help but notice that as much seems to happen on the outside of its buildings as on the inside, thanks to an aggressive mural program washing the exteriors in vibrant images by many artists in many styles.

    Just six blocks long, the district, running along Third and Ninth streets between First Avenue N and S, is home to an astonishing 25 murals and counting. ...

    This mural, painted by Sebastian Coolidge, is on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. The Central Arts District has 25 murals.
  8. Found objects turn into sculpture, at Tuegel gallery

    Visual Arts

    Rocky Bridges is essentially a sculptor, creating framed assemblages from found objects that are both lyrical and edgy. In a new collection, he dispenses with the wall and makes them freestanding. Shown is The Space Between Lovers 2. See them at Michele Tuegel Contemporary Art, 320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, through Aug. 29. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Free. mtcontempo.com or (727) 823-1100....

    Rocky Bridges, The Space Between Two Lovers II.
  9. Get first look at future arts compound in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    Now that the Warehouse Arts District Association group in St. Petersburg has signed a contract to purchase the former Ace Recycling compound, they would love for everyone to come and see it and its potential. And they would also like to raise money toward the purchase.

    To those ends, you're invited to "Envision the Enclave," a tour and fundraiser, Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at 515 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg. It's free but donations are nice. For sale will be sandwiches and hot dogs from CA Cafe and cold beer from 3 Daughters Brewery. Artists will be on hand to do quick portraits and live music will add to the festivities....

    Warehouse Arts District Association president Mark Aeling poses in front of the old Ace Recycling complex the group is buying.
  10. 'Hot Summer Show II' at Clayton Galleries

    Visual Arts

    You'll also see a lot of variety at Clayton Galleries, 4105 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, in its annual "Hot Summer Show II." Owner Cathy Clayton divides into three groups the considerable number of artists she represents and arranges three shows around them. This is No. 2, which continues through Aug. 23. No. 3 is Aug. 26 through Sept. 27. I like them all because I like so many of her artists, including Bruce Marsh, whose work is shown here. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. claytongalleries.net; (813) 831-3753. Lennie Bennett, Times art critic ...

    Bruce Marsh, River Strips
  11. 'Drawn From Nature' landscape show at Allyn Gallup gallery

    Visual Arts

    Landscapes are a beloved genre open to all kinds of interpretations and individual styles. "Drawn From Nature" at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, 1288 N Palm Ave., Sarasota, gives viewers a lot of variety in presenting work by nine artists. Compare Jean Blackburn's treatment of water as both gorgeously reflective and transparent, Michele Harvey's opaque meadow mist overtaking trees, and Heidi Edwards' abstract-leaning, improbably yellow marsh, shown here, all landscapes but so different in technique and intent. Also in the exhibition are Deborah Brown, Joyce Ely-Walker, Nancy Hellebrand, Susan Klein, Andrew Kuziak and William Nichols. "Drawn From Nature" continues through Oct. 25. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Free. allyngallup.com or (941) 366-2454....

    Heidi Edwards, Yellow Marsh
  12. A river runs through teen art project

    Visual Arts

    The Community Stepping Stones serves at-risk teens and, for a recent project, tapped into both science and art. Teens studied and canoed the entire Hillsborough River over several trips. They also applied what they learned to a variety of artistic mediums such as ceramics, painting, drama and photography. You see examples here. See all the work at "I Am River," on view at the Art Gallery at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor campus, Palm Avenue and 15th Street, Tampa. Stop by from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday for a free reception featuring a dramatic performance at 6 p.m. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Free. (813) 253-7674....

    A posterized water lily.
  13. Playful design for musical instrument show at Florida Craftsmen

    Visual Arts

    Musical instruments are utilitarian, built for performance. In the hands of master craftsmen, they can also be things of beauty, so much so that many non-musicians collect them for their looks, not their sound.

    "Fine Tuned: A Fresh Take on Musical Instruments" at Florida Craftsmen, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, presents a group of handmade ones along with whimsically repurposed and embellished examples. A group of 13 violins is used by artists as starting points for sculptural transformations that are in a silent auction to benefit the Suzuki Program at the Canterbury School in St. Petersburg. (They were ordered by the school but were too large for the students so …) View them online at floridacraftsmen.net and make a bid, which can also be made by phone. The auction continues through the show's duration, Aug. 23. ...

    Handcrafted bowed psaltery by Gene Jaeger.
  14. Review: Panama Canal photos at MFA, St. Petersburg document amazing accomplishment

    Visual Arts


    The big summer show at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is "My Generation: Young Chinese Artists," which is spectacular. There are other visual pleasure to be had there, too, such as the museum's permanent collection. Hanging out in the second-floor gallery devoted to works on paper is a group of 60 photographs documenting one of the most wondrous accomplishments of the early 20th century, the building of the Panama Canal on the narrowest stretch on land in Central America....

    Ernest “Red” Hallen, gelatin silver print. It shows the operation of the Gatun Locks with the S.S. Allianca leaving the upper-west chamber June 8, 1914 and entering Gatun Lake.
  15. Review: Richard Beckman's work at USF Contemporary Art Museum celebrates what was

    Visual Arts


    We see only a few pages from one of sculptor Richard Beckman's journals, opened in a Plexiglas case for "Outside the Curve of Reason," an exhibition at University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Yet they tell us much about Beckman's restless, relentless and obsessive creativity.

    He sketches an idea, then, in a hurried handwriting, breaks down the issues and challenges in making it real. He explores different iterations of the visual idea. As a nearby TV monitor scrolls through photographs of his sculptures in galleries, and of him working in his studio (these are still photos, not video), we see that, yes, he did resolve the problems in the sketch as we look at the actual work. ...

    You can see the detail in Richard Beckman’s Song of Kabir (ca. 2000), foreground, made from thin, bent pieces of wood. Zim Zum, a metal sculpture (1997-98), Under the Pink (2000), made of epoxy resin, and Chantella (2000), another wood sculpture, are in the background.