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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. Yard sale is all about art

    Visual Arts

    Many people who finish spring cleaning with an abundance of unwanted household items have a yard sale. When an artist such as Coralette Damme cleans house, the result is a trove of past work that lands in her "yART Sale." "It's like a yard sale but for art," she writes. Damme creates and exhibits in galleries and at art festivals under the name Crafty Hag. This sale will feature paintings and prints (some designed to be stationery) at reduced prices. Even a few pieces of stained glass, which she stopped making years ago, will be available. The event is Saturday at Damme's studio, 2021 12th St. N, St. Petersburg, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ...

    Coralette Damme, Barred Owl, acrylic.
  2. Norman Rockwell show at Tampa Museum of Art an enjoyable eye-opener

    Visual Arts


    Most of what can be said of Norman Rockwell as an artist we have heard: his fame and success as an illustrator, his critical dismissal by the art world for decades, his critical rehabilitation in recent years as a painter. I weighed in on the trajectory of his career after seeing an exhibition of his work at the Orlando Museum of Art in 2008. I realized two things then that I still believe: An appreciation of Rockwell's native talent is only possible after viewing his original paintings, which were not seen by the public for years, and that appreciation has its limits....

    Norman Rockwell, The Discovery, cover illustration for the Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 29, 1956.
  3. Exhibit gives peek into Arts and Crafts Museum collection

    Visual Arts

    The dazzling American Arts and Crafts Museum won't open until 2017 but you can get a small preview of its stellar collection at an exhibition opening Friday with a free reception at 6 p.m. "Passionate Design: The American Arts and Crafts Movement" at the Henry B. Plant Museum, 401 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa (on the University of Tampa campus), features furniture and objects from the Two Red Roses Foundation created by Rudy Ciccarello, who is the new museum's founder. Shown is a 1914 ceramic bowl by Edith Brown and Fannie Levine of Paul Revere Pottery/Saturday Evening Girls, Boston. A free talk by curator Susan Montgomery is at 7 p.m. at the Plant Museum, which has a permanent collection of art, furniture and decorative arts from America's Gilded Age at the turn of the 19th century. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 adult, $7 seniors and students and $5 children 4 to 12. or (813) 254-1891....

    1914 ceramic bowl by Edith Brown and Fannie Levine of Paul Revere Pottery/Saturday Evening Girls, Boston
  4. Variety takes over at Morean Arts Center

    Visual Arts

    The Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, has five new shows, so count on seeing a lot of diversity and uniqueness. It's especially heartening to see space given to students and creative people who seldom have an outlet such as the Morean.

    "KYLE: Catastrophes"

    The artist, who uses the name KYLE, works in mixed media and creates site-specific installations inspired by the drama of world events....

    Vicky, Delicious, 2014, acrylic on canvas.
  5. St. Petersburg's arts and crafts museum begins parking deck


    The planned $70 million Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement in St. Petersburg is closer to reality now that ground has been broken on its parking garage.

    This is a significant development for two reasons: It's a concrete indication of museum founder Rudy Ciccarello's intention and financial ability to follow through with his plans. And it has been designed, unlike most parking garages, to be a harmonious architectural and aesthetic component of the museum complex. ...

    The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement’s parking is an aesthetic design. 
  6. Salvador Dalí, Leonardo da Vinci, surprisingly, have much in common

    Visual Arts

    It might not have occurred to many of us, but Leonardo da Vinci and Salvador Dalí have a lot in common, and a new exhibition at the Salvador Dalí Museum, at 1 Dalí Blvd. in St. Petersburg (Bayshore Drive at Fifth Avenue SE), puts the two artists side by side for a comparison. Juxtaposition has been the theme of several of the museum's shows, with earlier ones pairing the great 20th century Spanish painter with Andy Warhol and, most recently, Pablo Picasso. This is an education show, says curator Peter Tush, which compares Leonardo's and Dalí's use of art to explore mathematics, science, social ideas and visual perception. "Dalí and da Vinci/ Minds, Machines and Masterpieces" has little original art, just a few works from the museum's collection. Most are facsimiles (from Leonardo's notebooks, for example) or reproductions, such as one of the Renaissance master's fresco, The Last Supper, and Dalí's homage to it. There are a few models of some of his many inventions assembled according to his plans. Leonardo's glider, for example, hangs in the atrium, accompanied by a video simulating its flight above downtown St. Petersburg. It's a lively, delightful show that makes science and math lessons fun. It continues through July 26. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily with extended hours to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Admission is $24 adults; $22 seniors, military, police and firefighters; $17 teens and college students with ID; $10 children 6 to 12; and free for children younger than 6. On Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., admission is $10 adults and $8 children. The museum will be closed March 27-29 during the Grand Prix races. or (727) 823-3767....

    Reproduction of The Sacrament of the Last Supper, by Salvador Dalí, 1955, oil on canvas, Dale Chester Collection.
  7. Ringling Museum's conservation lab preserves, protects vast art collection

    Visual Arts


    King Philip IV of Spain is looking good considering his age. His portrait, nearly 400 years old, by the great 17th century Spanish artist Diego Velazquez, sits on an easel in the conservation laboratory at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. It is being readied for its trip to Paris for a Velazquez exhibition co-organized by the Louvre at the Grand Palais.

    Barbara A. Ramsay is the person in charge of King Philip's packing and his baggage. Like all old art, his portrait has its share....

    Chief Conservator Barbara A. Ramsay uses a surgical microscope to examine the surface of a damaged 14th-century Italian painting attributed to Veneziano in conservation laboratory at The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  8. Review: 'Italian Traditions' brings other glass artists to Chihuly Collection

    Visual Arts


    It was a happy sight: Crowds of people, mostly tourists deduced from overheard conversations, exiting and entering the dazzling galleries of the Chihuly Collection and their permanent installations of glass by the famous Dale Chihuly.

    If you're a local and have been to the collection a few times, you probably haven't visited in a while, since the Chihuly glass doesn't change. Now that the institution has a small special exhibitions space, you have reason to return. The most recent offering is "Italian Traditions," a show of 20 contemporary glass artists who mostly use traditional glass-blowing techniques perfected in Italy centuries ago. ...

    Stephen Rolfe Powell’s works include huge vessels composed of hundreds of colored glass canes as well as platters that are more straightforward.
  9. Gardens bloom in show at Florida CraftArt

    Visual Arts

    We haven't been brutalized by winter as those in the Northeast have, so we don't yearn for spring as they do. But spring still has a lot of weight here as a time of renewal and a last gasp of lovely weather before we face Florida's enervating summer heat and humidity. Gardens are at their loveliest now, and we have plenty of literal examples available to us. Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, presents "Garden of Earthly Pleasures" with more than 30 artists who create fine-craft examples of garden adornments such as fountains and sculptures along with art that summons the inspirations found in gardens. A free opening reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday will feature models wearing garden-inspired costumes by participating artists. The show continues through April 18. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Free. Lennie Bennett, Times art critic...

    Oiseaux Sisters, mixed media.
  10. Lots of excitement at Dunedin Fine Art Center!

    Visual Arts

    There's something endearing about an event that announces itself annually with a bunch of exclamation points and all-caps lettering, the equivalent of a galactic shout-out.

    CONTAIN IT! and TRASHY TREASURES! at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin, on Friday and Saturday is old enough and successful enough to transition to more understatement, but the unrestrained enthusiasm is part of the event's charm. And it has now become a TRIfecta! with EAT IT!...

    An example of a POD container’s transformation from the 2014 CONTAIN IT! at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
  11. Gasparilla Festival of the Arts announces winners

    Visual Arts

    Thousands converged on the 45th annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Saturday but one person was probably more closely watched by the artist than any other among the throng. Elaine Gustafson is this year's juror, or judge, for the event and in her hands lay the decision for picking winning artists who would share $75,000 in prize money. This was a homecoming of sorts for Gustafson, who is the curator of collections at the Witherspoon Art Museum at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Before she assumed that job in 2009, she was director of exhibitions and collections and curator of contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art. ...

    Carolina Cleere’s Honey Child (mixed media) takes the Raymond James Financial Best of Show Award.
  12. Ringling Museum's 'Re:Purposed' show meant to inspire, aspire

    Visual Arts


    Art made from found or recycled materials has become a ubiquitous and varied form since its origins in the early 20th century, seen across the creative board from the humble outsider art of self-taught individuals to a line of superstars that includes Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg. Because it covers such vast territory, organizing an exhibition of contemporary examples acknowledging that variety while still having a central, focused idea behind it is a challenge....

    Courtesy of the Ringling Museum of Art
  13. Nude paintings are part of Gasparilla Festival of the Arts history

    Visual Arts

    We can thank, in part, a painting of a nude woman for the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts as we know it today, celebrating its 45th year on Saturday and Sunday in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

    Decades ago, a juried art exhibit was part of the Florida State Fair held in Tampa. It wasn't called Gasparilla back then, but it was scheduled in conjunction with Tampa's Gasparilla pirate invasion. In 1969, complaints were made to the fair organizers about nude paintings in the show. There was the inevitable bristling on both sides of the censorship issue, which, along with the fair's move to a location outside the city, resulted in a conscious uncoupling between the art show and the fair. ...

    Leif Johansen, mixed media.
  14. From Salade Nicoise to mussels, recipes for one


    Oh, the single-person-dinner thing.

    In my early 50s, about 10 years ago, I began living alone for the first time in my life when my second child left for college. Always a cook in the category of bountiful, I found myself trolling the frozen food aisles for Stouffer's mac and cheese and Marie Callender's individual chicken pot pies. Why bother making a cauldron of cassoulet?

    I was aware of all the good advice, the bromides: Make a big batch of something and freeze it in small portions; take pleasure in making good food for yourself — you deserve it! My heart just wasn't in it. My extended family and friends were terrific, inviting me over, making me feel included. But there were still so many blank squares on my calendar that suggested takeout. ...

    Roasted Italian Sausage and Grapes.
  15. Lights on Tampa will sparkle with new art, performances

    Visual Arts

    Lights! Camera phones! Action!

    On Friday and Saturday, downtown Tampa will bask in the glow of Lights on Tampa, a free outdoor public art display that has become a signature event since its debut in 2006. This year's Lights will have seven installations and performances, all concentrated in the parks and riverfront off Ashley Drive, so the public can easily access all of them without a lot of walking. ...

    HEARD — TAMPA by Nick Cave