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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 planner: Classical guitars bring joyful noises to MFA, John Kiley's glass are balancing acts at Chihuly Collection

    Visual Arts


    The big show opening Saturday at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, is a group of portraits from the 18th to early 20th centuries. Two others are also worth a good look. And though they're visual, sound is an equal component in both.

    The Art of the Classical Guitar showcases a collection of acoustic guitars crafted by world-famous luthiers (stringed instrument makers) including Antonio de Torres and Hermann Hauser. Torres is considered the father of the modern classical guitar (also known as a Spanish guitar) and Hauser was a great luthier of the 20th century. A nice touch: Recordings let viewers experience their tones. Go to for related musical events....

    An Antonio de Torres guitar from 1890, with Spanish pine top and birds-eye maple sides and back.
  2. Review: Plensa sculptures at Tampa Museum of Art offer much more than face value

    Visual Arts


    Easy to love Jaume Plensa's sculptures for their face value.

    Pardon the pun: They are faces, blown up to oversize proportions along with full-body statues. But they aren't portraits in the sense that Plensa's aim is not to depict a specific person or even a personified ideal. His goal is to imbue a physical form with an idea, thought or philosophical statement. Or, even better, to encourage viewers to supply their own....

    Artwork by Jaume Plensa in The Tampa Museum of Art on 1/21/16. “Jaume Plensa: Human Landscapes”  opens at Tampa Museum of Art on Sunday 1/24/16. His work will be seen in the museum’s galleries but sculptures but are also installed outside and in the atrium, on view to everyone anyone passing by. The museum is located 120 W Gasparilla Plaza (next to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park), Tampa.
  3. Art Planner: Portraits of the Museum of Fine Arts and Jeffrey Kronsnoble at Clayton

    Visual Arts


    Ah, the portrait. It seems like such a straightforward art: portray a person as you see him. But things get in the way of verisimilitude — the vanity of the sitter or the ego of the artist, for example. The best portraits balance both impulses in finding an essence in an individual without sacrificing individual expression. "Contemplating Character: Portrait Drawings and Oil Sketches From Jacques-Louis David to Lucian Freud," opening Feb. 13 and continuing through May 29 at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, gives viewers 152 examples of portraiture from the late 18th into the 20th centuries. Some of the artists, such as Freud, almost always used people as their subjects. The photographer Brassai, on the other hand, is famous for his moody scenes of Paris. All the works come from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, a curator emeritus of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco who has collected portraits for decades....

    Lucian Freud, Peter Watson, c. 1945, black crayon on paper
  4. Review: 'Disney and Dalí' exhibit a delightful look at two dreamers

    Visual Arts


    I will never again look at a classic Disney movie in the way I did after seeing "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination."

    In this shape-shifting exhibition at the Dalí Museum, Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí are shown in side-by-side comparisons to advance the thesis that, improbable as it might sound, they were kindred Surrealist souls.

    Yes, I was skeptical. ...

    The exhibition begins with “Magical Realms,” which looks at how Disney’s childhood in Missouri and Dal?’s in northeastern Spain shaped their lives.
  5. Art Planner: Art Festival Beth-El, 2Cool Art Show, Derek Gores at the Epicurean

    Visual Arts


    It's 43 this year but never feels old. Art Festival Beth-El, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Temple Beth-El, keeps things lively with an infusion of new artists, some avant-garde by festival standards, along with a lineup of returning favorites. Other features include space dedicated to an outdoor sculpture garden, a selection of limited-edition signed prints from Syd Entel Galleries in Safety Harbor and the Avenue of Shops with lighter (more affordable) art, jewelry and crafts. (One of my favorite Christmas gifts ever came from the event, an adorable little evening handbag from a friend.) Like most festivals, it has a feel-good component with art created by students from Pinellas County public and private high schools and scholarships for winning schools. ...

    Nick Leonoff, glass.
  6. Famed artist Jaume Plensa brings his huge head sculptures to Tampa

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA — Talk to Jaume Plensa about his art and you are just as likely to have a discussion about gravity, non-corporeal beauty and the protective power of poetry.

    Plensa, 61, has achieved international fame, critical praise and many awards in the art world for his figurative sculptures that are unlike any others. For one thing, most of them are huge.

    Plensa (first name pronounced jaw-meh) visited the Tampa Museum of Art Friday to look over an installation of his work and sit down for an interview in advance of Sunday's opening of "Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape."...

    Jaume Plensa touches Silent Rain, which consists of poems made of iron letters.
  7. Review: New exhibits by Brazilian artists capture a nation's tension

    Visual Arts


    Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the world's fifth-largest country, so to write that an exhibition of Brazilian art has a deep sense of place is to acknowledge that the place is big. Yet "Histórias/Histories: Contemporary Art From Brazil" at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, with only a handful of participants, gives us a sense of what being Brazilian means, especially to those who share no part of the dazzle of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. Each of the five artists has different practices, but the show is unified by curator Noel Smith's use of the tension between the growing urbanity of the artists' country and the inevitable shrinking of Brazil's rural and forested areas. In Caio Reisewitz's landscape photography, that exploration is more literal; in Virginia de Medeiros' digital photographs, overpainted as lush portraits, that tension is expressed in the human consequences. ...

    A horse-drawn cart surges to victory in O Levante (The Uprising, 2012-13), an eight-minute video by Jonathas de Andrade.
  8. Art Planner: Jaume Plensa at Tampa Museum of Art and samurai swords at Ringling Museum

    Visual Arts


    This is a big show in every sense of the word. Jaume Plensa is one of the world's finest and most famous artists working in public spaces. His enormous figurative sculptures, clean and serene of line, belie complex conceptual ideas. An exhibition of his work opens at the Tampa Museum of Art on Sunday and will be one of 2016's must-see exhibitions. His work will be seen in the museum's galleries but sculptures installed outside and in the atrium, on view to everyone with admission or not, are a gift to the community from the museum. ...

    Jeff Yonkus and Nick Hay move a statue into place at the Tampa Museum of Art, which is hosting “Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape.” The exhibit opens Sunday.
  9. Review: Two photographers find surfaces and depths in exhibitions at FMOPA

    Visual Arts


    Two new shows at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts are a good pairing of opposites. On one floor are two series by Gohar Dashti, an Iranian photographer who juxtaposes the spare landscape of her country with peopled tableaux representing the disruptions and loss through years of turmoil. On another floor are seascapes by Sandra Gottlieb that are a meditative counterpoint to the emotionally charged works downstairs. ...

    Sandra Gottlieb, Horizontal Number 20, archival chromogenic print on Fuji paper.
  10. Art Planner: Sarasota Winter Fine Art Festival, Kara Walker, Peter Max, miniature art in Dunedin

    Visual Arts


    You may assume a few givens about an art festival: Many artists and craftsmen will fill their booths with a plethora of media; the event will be free (though not the art); and the weather will be either good or bad. All of that is true of the fourth annual Sarasota Winter Fine Art Festival, which features 130 artists from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 801 Gulfstream Ave....

    You can meet Peter Max this month.
  11. Art Planner: New gallery shows, free receptions in St. Petersburg and Tampa

    Visual Arts


    It's time for the monthly Second Saturday Art Walk in St. Petersburg and, as always, galleries will be offering up new shows. The walk keeps getting bigger, with dozens of venues stretching ever farther west of the downtown core and parking is a lot easier beyond the bustle of Beach Drive. Shops and restaurants let you make an evening of the event along with trolleys to ferry you around. Most galleries in the city's five arts districts stay open until 9 p.m., so make it a date night!...

    A sculpture by Charles Parkhill can be seen at Leslie Curran Gallery in St. Petersburg.
  12. The best exhibits from Tampa Bay art museums in 2015

    Visual Arts

    Unlike 2014, the past year wasn't one of big, headline-grabbing art exhibitions. Instead, we saw a parade of thoughtful shows calling our attention to artists we knew slightly or not at all and those we were able to know better. There are many worthy ones to note, but here's what was at the top of my list for each museum.

    > Leepa Rattner Museum of Art

    We said good-bye to Lynn Whitelaw, the museum's founding director who retired in October. By choice he had stepped down to spend his remaining time at the museum as its chief curator, doing what he loved most: managing the permanent collection and organizing temporary exhibitions. His final shows demonstrated his gifts as a curator. "Henry and Abe: Finding America" had been in the planning for years and in it he brought to life an amazing friendship through the art of Abraham Rattner and writer Henry Miller. "Ralph Wickiser: A Retrospective" introduced us to a minor artist, "minor" perhaps because of the vagaries of art history. This exhibit puts a fine artist into the context of acclaim that can come and go, parallel, in a way, to Abraham Rattner's standing in the art pantheon. You still have time to see it; it continues through Feb. 7....

    Elger Esser’s Combray (Saint-Romain-de-Lerpes)  from the Florida Museum of Photo-graphic Arts’ exhibit.
Courtesy of Elger Esser
  13. Art Planner: Sand mandala at a museum, realism and Cuban art

    Visual Arts


    Sand mandalas are gorgeous works of art. Even more, they are physical manifestations of the Buddhist belief that material life is transitory. Probably the greatest living practitioner of sand mandalas is Losang Samten and he will create a mandala at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE, beginning Sunday.

    Samten is a scholar who for many years was a Buddhist monk serving for several years as the Dalai Lama's personal attendant. The spiritual leader sent Samten to the United States in 1988 to introduce the art form to the West. Since then, he has created mandalas at major museums and educational institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Columbia University and Harvard University. He also was a technical adviser for and appeared in Kundun, Martin Scorsese's film about the Dalai Lama. ...

    Losang Samten is a scholar who for many years was a Buddhist monk serving for several years as the Dalai Lama’s personal attendant.
  14. Art planner: For the holidays, rent a movie about an artist, prop up your feet and relax

    Visual Arts


    Today, things should finally slow down. Today, I hope you can begin fully to relax and enjoy the holiday. In that spirit, I suggest an alternative to going somewhere for your art fix: How about a movie at home? These are some of my favorite ones about artists, spanning five decades. Most are available through cable or online. I'm not saying they're the best movies ever made or that they're necessarily accurate in a documentary sense, but they catch the essence of their subjects and brought me enjoyment through the years. Happy holidays!...

    Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh in “Lust for Life.’’ 
  15. Visit from Cuba's arts leaders sparks hope for cultural exchanges with St. Petersburg



    A year ago, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    A year later, nine Cubans prominent in the country's arts community, including representatives of Cuba's Ministry of Culture, took advantage of new travel opportunities to visit St. Petersburg. Their hosts are the city's Downtown Partnership and St. Petersburg officials. ...

    One of the results of the trip could be an exhibition, perhaps at the Dal? Museum, of works by Cuban-born artist  Wifredo Lam, according to the CEO of the city’s Downtown Partnership.