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. Tom James of Raymond James Financial commits up to $75 million for art museum

    Visual Arts

    Tom James has been talking for almost 10 years about founding a museum to house his vast art collection without having any specific plans.

    Until now.

    He still has major decisions to make, but he has committed up to $75 million of his personal fortune to building it, identified several sites in St. Petersburg he would like to explore and set a target date, June 30, to find a location so the project can get rolling. He no longer speaks of hoping to get it done; he seems resolved to do so....

    A bronze statue titled "Sugar for the Road" by Joe Beeler, stands a hallway as employees navigate the halls of Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg Thursday morning (04/26/07). STORY SUMMARY: Tom James huge art collection mostly displayed at his corporate headquarters, Raymond James Financial. (DIRK SHADD | TIMES)
  2. At Museum of Fine Arts, portraits of a man who changed ballet

    Visual Arts


    Ballet was not an art form of the masses until Rudolf Nureyev came along in the 1960s. A Russian defector who became a European and American superstar, Nureyev brought ballet into mainstream, popular culture with his dramatic story line, brooding charisma and, of course, his astonishing talent.

    Jamie Wyeth has never had Nureyev's level of public fame but has achieved his own considerable accolades as a painter, helped early on by his genealogical provenance as the son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth, both revered artists, but he established himself and has a formidable reputation....

    Rudolf Nureyev’s tunic from Don Quixote.
  3. Dunedin Art Harvest: Good art for a good cause

    Visual Arts

    You will think it odd that I begin a preview of an outdoor arts festival with a mention of a program for teenagers who will soon "age-out" of the foster care system. That's because to talk about one, we really have to talk about the other.

    Both are projects of the Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin, a volunteer women's organization with 500 members. Art Harvest, the annual arts and fine crafts extravaganza on Saturday and Sunday, is a fundraiser. It helps pay for the league's service projects that can change from year to year in response to community needs. This year it's the Teen Training Center. Since the league was founded in 1948, it has raised more than $1.5 million and helped numerous local agencies and causes with that money. Art Harvest has been going strong for 51 years so it has been a part of those funding efforts for almost as long as the organization has been around....

    James Carter, mixed media. 
  4. Garlic loses its bite, not its flavor, with roasting


    Garlic is powerful but its bite won't keep vampires away, as people once believed. It is, though, an effective social repellent if consumed raw, even in modest quantities. • Mainly because of its potency, garlic has rarely been the star of a dish, but rather an important bit player, enriching the food of almost every culture from long-simmered Italian sauces to quick Asian stir-fries. • Garlic is part of the allium family; among its milder relatives are onions, leeks and chives. A head of garlic is encased in a papery skin that encloses the redolent cloves. It was used by people in Asia and Egypt perhaps as far back as 7,000 years ago both as food and medicine, and was considered by the ancient Greeks as a general cure-all. In modern times it has been made into supplements for various ailments. • Central Europeans in the middle ages imbued garlic with the ability to ward off evil creatures such as vampires, which became part of the cult of Dracula beginning with Bram Stoker's novel in the late 19th century. And the following grew after the 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi....

    For a quick appetizer, squeeze cloves of roasted garlic onto toasted baguette slices. Add goat cheese and thyme if you’d like.
  5. Review: Tampa Museum of Art's 'Renoir to Chagall' leaves a lovely impression

    Visual Arts


    So much has been done with French impressionism that there's not really much to add to a scholarly discussion.

    Still, such discussions are important. They may not offer groundbreaking insights but, rather, they give us enjoyable experiences that remind us why impressionism remains a major, relevant art movement. And, if we're open to them, individual revelations help us see a familiar artist or work in a new way....

    Alfred Sisley, The Seine at Billancourt, ca. 1877-78, oil on canvas.
  6. Review: 'Lost Pre-Raphaelite' digs into the secrets of a house, its people


    Anyone who has renovated an old house (or who watches the many reno-shows on HGTV) knows of the mysteries and secrets kept behind walls and beneath floorboards. The asbestos! That knob-and-tube wiring! Those cracked water pipes!

    Renovating historical houses brings those issues to a much higher level as Nigel Daly and his partner Brian Vowles have learned through restorations of period properties in Great Britain. Daly is a respected expert whose most recent project has been work on Biddulph Old Hall, a manor house in Staffordshire, and a book he has written about it....

  7. Florida Craftsmen reopens as Florida CraftArt on Thursday

    Visual Arts

    It doesn't look like much in this photo but when it opens today, the newly renovated Florida Craftsmen Gallery will boast a lot more space for showcasing fine crafts made by Florida artists, just in time for holiday shopping. It also boasts a new name: Florida CraftArt. Stop in for a look. It's on Central Avenue at Fifth Street, St. Petersburg, and hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. A free reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 7 is also the opening of the annual holiday show. floridacraftsmen.net or (727) 821-7391....

    Having undergone renovations over the summer, Florida CraftArt is the new name of the former Craftsmen Gallery.
  8. John Mellencamp paintings on display in DeLand

    Visual Arts

    Creativity rarely is compartmentalized. It crosses borders physical and metaphorical. Creative people are usually creative multitaskers.

    John Mellencamp, for example.

    He is, and always will be, esteemed, rich and famous for his songwriting and musicianship.

    He's lots of other things, too, but in this context we'll talk about John Mellencamp, visual artist, because 50 new paintings and mixed media works are on view at the Museum of Art — DeLand through Dec. 28. ...

    Photo by Kevin Montague, courtesy of ACA Galleries, New York
  9. Kokol Arts reception features Roy Lerner workshop painters

    Visual Arts

    It has been a busy week at Kokol Arts Studio and Gallery, 3318 Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa. New York-based abstract artist Roy Lerner has conducted a five-day workshop with area painters and the results of their work will be on view during a one-night-only reception at the gallery on Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. Lerner has built his reputation on his advancement of techniques using acrylics for his abstract paintings. He works in an intuitive way, building layers of colors, often using thick coats of paint applied with palette knives. The workshop participants won't mimic his style but collaborate. Along with their work, Lerner will exhibit several of his own paintings. The reception is free with complimentary valet parking. Shown is Lerner's Bell Bottom Blues. ...

    Roy Lerner, Bell Bottom Blues, Acrylic
  10. Morse Museum features collection never displayed before

    Visual Arts

    If you have visited the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, you know it has a swoon-worthy collection of late 19th and early 20th century decorative arts, made swoonier with its holdings by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the most comprehensive in the world. If you haven't visited, you really would enjoy the museum.

    Either way, here's added incentive: "Revival and Reform: Eclecticism in the 19th-Century Environment." It's a new exhibition opening Tuesday that features leaded glass, art glass, pottery and furniture from the permanent collection, some of it never displayed before. The centerpiece will be The Arts, a window 8 feet in diameter in the neoclassical style by Lamb Studios, an important creator of glass objects. ...

    The Arts is a window 8 feet in diameter in neoclassical style by Lamb Studios.
  11. Chihuly Collection adds new, diverse glass selections

    Visual Arts


    Studio glass has many permutations, as we have seen over the years in group shows of the medium in museums and galleries. Yet the constant presence of the Chihuly Collection featuring the dramatic, permanent installations of international art star Dale Chihuly perhaps blunts, in our minds, the variety of interpretations that can be brought to glass.

    Remedying that is an 800-square-foot space in the collection's home in downtown St. Petersburg to showcase other fine glass artists who seek different results from the material. It was created when the areas used for guest services and a small shop were reconfigured for special exhibitions within the permanent gallery space, and a spacious, free-standing store that opens directly onto Beach Drive....

    Kait Rhoads’ Bloom is composed of four wall panels with different color layers.
  12. Exhibits on Renoir, Chagall, Wyeth open on big arts weekend

    Visual Arts

    A crowded arts calendar continues!

    Three museum exhibitions debut in the coming days and we see the return of the annual Graphicstudio sale. Also, the monthly Second Saturday ArtWalk is coming up. Strategic planning means you don't have to miss any of them since the museum shows continue into January.



    Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color...

    Claude Monet, Port of Dieppe, Evening, 1882, oil on canvas, is part of “Renoir to Chagall: 
Paris and the Allure of Color,” a new show at the Tampa Museum of Art.
  13. Make time for these can't-miss art events in Tampa Bay

    Visual Arts

    Arts people, the coming two weeks will be the most packed with things to do and see in my memory: five new exhibitions and several events that range from north Tampa through Pinellas County. Here's what's happening in the next week. Look for more in the Oct. 9 issue of Weekend. You can also find it all at tampabay.com/things-to-do.

    Lennie Bennett, Times art critic

    Kait Rhoads at the Chihuly Collection...

    Blue Dome, single strength plate glass, cut, drilled and fired with glass enamels, then hung by steel wire onto a steel form, 1995. Entry is encouraged.
  14. 'Eyesplice Collective' at Morean features 12 emerging female artists

    Visual Arts

    The term "emerging artist" is perplexing. It implies youthful talent that is still developing and the absence of significant professional exposure. Given the number of exhibitions I've seen featuring emerging artists, I find the label all over the map and misleading. After all, talent should never cease developing and recognition and exposure can be arbitrary.

    "Eyesplice Collective: Spatial Disruption" at the Morean Arts Center is billed as a group of emerging artists, and I'll go with it, adding the caveat that many of these artists (all female) have impressive exhibition histories and some of their works are in significant public collections. ...

    Maria Raquel Cochez’s 30-minute video for Lazy Girl No. 6, 2011, explores obesity as a woman eats a gallon of Edy’s Cookies ’n Cream ice cream with a fork.
  15. MFA's 'Monet to Matisse' show to include a dozen masterworks

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — To celebrate its 50th anniversary, only the best will do for the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.

    Of the 25 or more works by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and others coming to an impressive exhibit in February, at least a dozen are considered masterworks.

    And there could be even more masterworks — meaning they are considered among the finest works by an artist — coming to "Monet to Matisse: On the French Coast," said Kent Lydecker, the museum's director. More artwork loans are still being negotiated. ...

    Auguste Renoir’s Figures on the Beach (1890, oil on canvas) celebrates the novelty of a day at the beach by a growing middle class in France.