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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. Picasso/Dalí exhibit extended

    Visual Arts

    To no one's surprise, "Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso" at the Dali Museum has been a hit with visitors. So it's no wonder that museum officials are extending its run by one week, with closing day Feb. 22.

    "We would have extended it even longer if we could have," said Kathy Greif, the museum's marketing director, but it has an opening date set for March 19 at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona....

  2. Photograph exhibitions showcase nuance of black and white

    Visual Arts


    Black and white photographs are studies in contrast, explorations of tonal nuance between the extremes of light and dark. Two exhibitions at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts provide excellent examples of two 20th century fine photographers working in the black and white tradition, along with a demonstration of how varied that tradition is.

    We could consider both eloquent landscape artists. Ezra Stoller (1915-2004) worshiped at the altar of mid-century American architecture, also called modern architecture, and his crisp, elegant documentations are odes to a specific time and style. Elger Esser (1967-) takes us out of time with his haunting, atmospheric portraits of the French countryside. ...

    Elger Esser, Combray (Pressy-sous-Dondin II) Frankreich (Bourgogne, 71 Saon-et-Loire), 2011, heliogravure on handmade paper.
  3. New paintings of Port Tampa Bay are artful documentaries

    Visual Arts

    Laura Waller has been a presence in the bay area arts community for decades. Besides being involved as an advocate and supporter of various organizations, she's a painter whose loosely worked, soft watercolors have evolved into a more muscular style with a heavier water-based oil paint. And what a surprise to see the subject matter of a new series that opens at Clayton Galleries Friday.

    In "The Working Waterfront: Port of Tampa," Waller explores the bustling industrial waterfront in 25 paintings that take viewers to scenes closed to outsiders and curiosity seekers because of strict security. She wrangled her way in through a personal connection and spent months exploring the area and operations from wharfs and a small boat....

    Laura Waller, Top Island No. 1, oil on canvas
  4. How to love art in your own way

    Visual Arts

    Before there were self-help books and the legions of advice columnists, before Dr. Phil, there was art.

    From early human history, visual expression was the most common and universal way to communicate, to tell the human story and place it in a larger context. It could explain, reassure, comfort, inspire and validate. Therein lay its value.

    So it wasn't art as we think of art today. The cave paintings from 30,000 years ago weren't "art." Neither were the murals in Egyptian tombs, the marble friezes in Greek and Roman temples or the medieval icons and biblical representations. ...

  5. Four big shows (plus a big kiln) at Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    The Morean Arts Center starts 2015 with a strong lineup of four new exhibitions, all now open, featuring painting, ceramics and photography. They're spread over two venues, their headquarters at 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, and the Center for Clay, 420 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg, in the historic train station.

    A True Story: Beth Reynolds and the St. Pete Photo Club

    At the Morean Arts Center through March 1...

  6. Haitian Vodou art featured at Florida CraftArt in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    Haitian art is often deeply rooted in spiritual beliefs and the practice of Vodou. (Don't confuse it with the creepy voodoo portrayed in popular culture and scary movies.) It is also has a deep affiliation with the folk art tradition, though many artists are trained, not self-taught. Fine examples of contemporary Haitian art will be on view in "Living With Mysticism: The Power of Visual Vodou," curated by Mindy Solomon, opening Friday with a free reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. It continues through March 2. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. or (727) 821-7391. Shown are found-object sculptures by Guyodo....

    Found object sculptures by Haitian artist Guyodo at new Florida CraftArt show.
  7. Photorealist style exhibit by Richard Heipp opens at Holocaust Museum

    Visual Arts

    Richard Heipp, like Suzanne Camp Crosby, is a college art professor, teaching painting at the University of Florida. He works in the photorealist style, using vintage photographs as a starting point for collage-type layers of images. His narratives are much darker, though, addressing issues of Jewishness in Nazi Germany through a contemporary lens. A group of his work opens at the Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth St. S, St. Petersburg, on Saturday. Shown is Germanic Guilt Symbols II: Civil Defense Triptych, 1990, shaped acrylic on plastic panels. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $16 adults, $14 seniors, $10 college students and $8 youths younger than 18. or (727) 820-0100....

    Richard Heippe, Germanic Guilt Symbols II: Civil Defense Triptych, 1990, shaped acrylic on plastic panels.
  8. Exhibit celebrates career of Suzanne Camp Crosby

    Visual Arts

    Suzanne Camp Crosby has been an inspiration in the Tampa Bay region as a first-rate photographer whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries and as a teacher who has shared her craft with generations of students. She retires April 30 as a full-time faculty member of Hillsborough Community College at its Ybor campus, and a show of her work, opening Jan. 12, celebrates her career.

    "Assembly Required" shows us the broadstroke generalities of Crosby's work in which she manipulates a scene, adding objects or people to create a narrative. But she uses great variety and imagination, just like all good storytellers. ...

    Past Time #1 by Suzanne Camp Crosby, a photographer who is retiring after sharing her inspiration with generations of students.
  9. Tampa Bay museums have lots to see over holiday weekend

    Visual Arts

    This is the day for hanging out at home with friends and family and all the attendant customs you observe on a major holiday. For many of us, it's the beginning of a long weekend with lots of entertainment possibilities, especially if you have out-of-town guests. You know where I'm going with this: Go to a museum! You can choose one for its proximity or launch yourself further afield to see a particular exhibition or have a new arts experience. All are in locations that afford you other opportunities for sightseeing and dining. Check our Art Calendar (Page 23) or their websites for hours, admission and directions. Here they are, by city:...

    The John Ringling and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota has a stellar permanent collection of Baroque art, but special exhibitions add to the draw.
  10. Art museums gave us big new shows in 2014 plus plans for new museums

    Visual Arts

    2014 has been the best year for museum exhibitions since I became the Tampa Bay Times art critic 12 years ago.

    Museums aren't rolling in money — fundraising is a constant challenge and administrative changes and staff turnover always cause bumps — but I am impressed with the ambition in programming. Fewer touring shows, organized by professional companies and other museums that are essentially rentals, were on the schedules, replaced by home-grown ones that are often important enough to merit scholarly catalogs and additional venues....

    Salvador Dalí’s Apparatus and Hand, 1927, oil on panel, left, with Pablo Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair, 1929, oil on canvas.
  11. Guatemalan folk art gallery opens in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts


    As a specialist in cancer and blood disorders, Dr. Robert Drapkin has been in the business of saving lives for most of his adult life. He also has spent an almost equal amount of time saving art. He and his wife, Chitranee, are collectors partial to fragility. Their main areas of interest are early forms of photography and pre-Columbian ceramics, both more vulnerable to destruction than many other art forms....

    Folk art masks hang on a wall at From Mayan Hands.
  12. Outdoor St. Petersburg Holiday of the Arts festival good for last-minute shopping

    Visual Arts

    If the thought of yet another trip to the mall or big-box store for that special gift you forgot to purchase seems too fraught, consider St. Petersburg Holiday of the Arts as an alternative. It's on Saturday and Sunday in South Straub Park, between Beach and Bayshore drives.

    It isn't one of our annual not-for-profit art festivals (such as Mainsail and Gasparilla Festival of the Arts) but organized by Paragon Fine Art Festivals that operates shows around the country. John Collins, executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, teamed with the city to bring the show in. ...

    Scarves by Cheryl Kabala.
  13. Duncan McClellan's Studio lets you design your own glass etching

    Visual Arts


    Need a break from shopping or a fun activity for guests? Duncan McClellan Glass is hosting etching events Saturday at his fabulous, enormous glass studio, 2342 Emerson Ave. S, St. Petersburg. It includes a tour of McClellan's hot shop and garden of tropical fruits. You choose or create a design, and assistants will help you apply it to a wine glass or plate. The professionals do the actual etching while you enjoy a libation. Some of the proceeds benefit McClellan's school projects, which provide art experiences in schools and his studio. Saturday etching sessions are at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.; $35 per person and reservations are required. Shown are wine glasses made by McClellan for the Stuart Society wine auction at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg in 2011. Your glass might not be quite this terrific, but it'll be close. or (813) 760-6600. — Lennie Bennett, Times art critic...

    StuartWineAuction. Caption: (Friday 02/11/2011 St. Petersburg) Hand blown, carved and etched wine glasses by local glass artist Duncan McClellan up for auction during the Stuart Society of the Museum of Fine Arts Wine Auction and Gala on Friday, February 11, 2011 at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.
Summary: Stuart Society of the Museum of Fine Arts presented the Inaugural Wine Auction and Gala.
Photo by James Branaman
  14. Create an easy but classy holiday party menu for $10 per person


    Recently, friends and I were musing about holiday parties, how many there were in the past and so few now. None of us has big ones anymore. They have become so expensive, we all agreed. And can be stressful.

    So when thinking about a holiday entertaining story, I decided to do one with a menu that wasn't expensive — about $10 per person — and could be done mostly in advance, keeping things low on the stress scale. ...

    Move over, mini-burgers. Try Braised Beef Sliders With Pickled Onions for something fancier.
  15. Meet John Collins, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance executive director

    Life Times

    John Collins must have a big battery pack hidden somewhere on his person. How else to explain his energy?

    Day or night, weekend or workday, the executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance seems to be everywhere there is an arts-related happening or a potential donor who could fund it. He takes meetings in corporate offices in dark business suits, then trades them for jeans to take in a performance at Freefall Theatre or the monthly Second Saturday ArtWalk. His job description includes being an advocate for individual artists and large arts groups, providing resources and advice, and finding funding for projects and events. He also works with them on business models and grant writing and as a liaison to the city and corporate sponsors. ...

    Patrons exit the trolley during the Warehouse Arts District Association Trolley Tour during a Second Saturday ArtWalk last year. At left is the Center for Clay.