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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. 'Frida Kahlo at Home' a fine entry-level introduction to the artist


    Biographies of Frida Kahlo in various forms have proliferated since the early 1980s, when she became a rock star of the art world about three decades after her death in 1954. After so much examination, nothing new seems left to reveal.

    So Frida Kahlo at Home by Suzanne Barbezat holds no surprises. It does offer a good gloss of the facts if you're not interested in an exhaustive tome, and it's complemented by many illustrations of Kahlo's art and photographs. ...

  2. Dali Museum's Frida Kahlo show a first in Florida

    Visual Arts


    International Frida-mania has made Frida Kahlo a feminist icon, Surrealist inspiration, kitsch archetype and unibrow heroine. We forget that though the Mexican painter had ardent followers she was neither a role model nor famous when she died at age 47. Fame belonged to her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera.

    To get to the heart of Kahlo's art, we have to peel back the layers of mythology, thick as impasto. As an artist she was usually very good, even excellent, and certainly original. Great? Probably not. She didn't go for greatness. Kahlo (1907-54) was most interested in exploring suffering with a visual rhetoric based on her own horrific experiences, making paintings that become meditations on life embraced with joy and conviction no matter the challenges. ...

    A visitor at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg examines the painting “Self Portrait With Small Monkey,” 1945, by artist Frida Kahlo.
  3. Review: 'Complicated Beauty' showcases Cuba at the Tampa Museum of Art

    Visual Arts

    Striking about "Complicated Beauty: Contemporary Cuban Art" at the Tampa Museum of Art is its tone. For all of the exhibition's variety and appeal, even lightheartedness in a few examples, somberness pervades as the artists take a clear-eyed view of life and times in contemporary Cuba.

    The colors are the first thing you'll probably notice. Red pervades many of the works and it's usually juxtaposed with darker monotones. It could signify a variety of meanings but most of them point to red as a symbol of passion (not the romantic kind), violence and even power. ...

    Jos? Bedia, Semana Santa (Holy Week), 1998, ink and Conte crayon on amate paper.
  4. Art Planner: New SHINE murals, new art shows in downtown St. Petersburg, Todd Still at Dunedin Fine Arts Center

    Visual Arts


    The St. Petersburg ArtWalk is a monthly event, but Saturday's is probably going to be a standout. It'll have the usual complement of new gallery shows but it also coincides with SPF 16, a monthlong celebration of the arts presented by the Suncoasters of St. Petersburg with support from the city. The biggest event in SPF 16 is the SHINE Mural Festival, and the 21 new murals should be completed by the ArtWalk. The galleries stay open until 9 p.m. So, lots to see and do....

    Dave Williams’ untitled acrylic painting is part of a one-person show at the Morean Arts Center.
  5. Art planner: Clyde Butcher photos at history center, deal on First Night buttons

    Visual Arts


    Clyde Butcher is a beloved landscape photographer whose work is dual aesthetic and environmental statement. "Preserving Eden: The Florida Photographs of Clyde Butcher" opens Saturday at the Tampa Bay History Center, and much of it, if you're a fan, you have probably already seen.

    I believe art can and should be revisited. You can usually find something new that way, some deeper appreciation....

    One of the panels that make up Embracing Our Differences, a Sarasota event seeking submissions.
  6. St. Pete's big art is back with the 2016 SHINE Mural Festival

    Visual Arts

    John Collins will not have to scramble for a forklift this week and for that, he is thankful.

    Collins, executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, is a key organizer of the 2016 SHINE Mural Festival which kicks off today with 19 professional local, national and international muralists painting the town with 16 works.

    The 2015 SHINE festival was a huge success, but some behind-the-scenes glitches had Collins and artist and SHINE curator Leon Bedore, better known as Tes One, hustling around the various sites resolving misunderstandings (a building's tenant, for example, had given permission to paint a wall but the owner balked) and MIA equipment (the forklift)....

    Mural artist Todd Frain gets his base coat down with the help of Creative Clay client Ali Vasquez on a large mural he's starting at 2914 1st. Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.
  7. Art planner: New work at Florida CraftArt, Dunedin's Wearable Art returns

    Visual Arts




    Curator Jorge Vidal has put together an impressive group of seven artists for "Mind Over Matter," opening Friday at Florida CraftArt. Donna Anderson, Emily Barletta, Martin and Erik Demaine, Jessica Drenk, Christopher Kurtz and Polly Adams Sutton work in traditional craft media such as paper, wood and fiber. Most of the pieces on view are conceptual ideas being realized in humble materials, but some of their work even as a degree of functionality....

    This drawing by Kara Voorhees Reynolds is just one of her drawings on display at Bamboozle Tea Lounge beginning today through Sept. 22.
  8. The origins of red and blue as political colors for Republicans, Democrats

    Visual Arts

    Red. Blue.

    They have many associations, but conjure them right now and electoral maps will probably come to mind. You know, the ones designating Republican and Democratic states.

    The color coding seems obvious. Red and blue are the colors of the American flag, along with white.

    But red and blue, as colors, have a complicated relationship. They, along with yellow, are primary colors from which all others are derived. You see them together on the basic color wheel, neighbors but not necessarily friends. ...

  9. Art planner: 'Extracted' at USFCAM, going vertical at Artlofts, new art at HCC

    Visual Arts


    The Contemporary Art Museum at the University of South Florida can always be counted on to present provocative, thoughtful exhibitions. They're also really interesting. "Extracted," which opens Monday, is the latest. Curator Megan Voeller has selected five artists who address issues of human consumption and how it is changing our world. Their interpretations range from the personal — sculptures Mary Mattingly creates from her own possessions — to the global — Marina Zurkow's examination of petrochemical-containing products in widespread use....

    Mary Mattingly’s photographic print Pull is in the show “Extracted” at USF’s Contemporary Art Museum.
  10. Frida Kahlo show coming to the Dalí Museum in December

    Visual Arts

    Frida Kahlo fans, celebrate.

    The celebrated 20th century Mexican artist will have her first solo exhibition in Florida at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg beginning Dec. 17. Though numerous works by Kahlo have been exhibited individually, this is the first time in Florida a show has been devoted to her work, according to the museum.

    Co-organized by the Dalí and the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, it will feature more than 60 pieces, including paintings and drawings, along with photographs from Kahlo's collection. ...

    Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s work will be on display at the Dal? Museum starting in December.
  11. Review: Boldly conceived folk art on display at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts


    Everyone has an interesting life story, so I believe. But most of those belonging to self-taught artists, sometimes also called folk artists, always seem especially compelling. Reading their brief biographies on wall labels at "From the Heart: Folk Art on Paper" at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is a moving experience.

    That said, art must stand on its own. The art in this show generally does, not always based on formal technique but on conceptual merits. Their difficult lives inform their art, distilled through a prism of imagination that's based on experience and yet transcends it....

    Thornton Dial, Untitled, drawing on paper.
  12. Art Planner: Cafes with art and a gallery show to beat the heat

    Visual Arts


    I admit it: I have always been a snob about fine art in restaurants. It's bad for the art with all the fumes and people coming and going with no means of mitigating those destructive elements. And how do you really get to see the art when it's hanging over an occupied table? But … I cede the notion after learning of so many cafes and pubs exhibiting art, some with robust sales of it. Unlike the past, in formal restaurants, these venues rotate the art in and out quickly. And if the artists like it and it helps them, then yea! I also see the fun in having a coffee or brew with friends and having cool art to look at while you're there. And maybe those alcoholic beverages loosen the wallet. So have a good time commingling art and recreational eating. ...

    Painting by Lynn Rattray at Bamboozle Tea Lounge in Tampa.
  13. Norma Kamali retrospective at Tampa Museum of Art is back-to-the-future experience

    Visual Arts

    Norma Kamali has survived the roiling currents of the fashion industry for almost 50 years by being a genius at two contradictory impulses: She is a pioneer. She is conservative. Many would disagree with that latter description, but hear me out.

    She has introduced and popularized trends such as the use of unusual materials and, instead of constantly moving onto the next new thing as many designers feel compelled to do, she has continued to keep them in her rotation. They have endured because they're timeless....

    Fashion designer Norma Kamali poses for a photo before opening day of her exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art. LUIS SANTANA  |   Times 
  14. Review: Horst P. Horst's elegant photographs stand test of time at Dali Museum

    Visual Arts


    If you are of any age and follow fashion, you're familiar with the work of photographer Horst P. Horst (1906-1999). Or at least one example of his work, the famous Mainbocher Corset, even if you don't follow fashion. From the 1930s into the 1950s, he was the preeminent fashion photographer for Vogue, then transitioned into bringing glamorous and famous people and their homes onto the pages of that magazine and House and Garden, also a publication of the Condé Nast Corp., which owned the best lifestyle magazines in the world. A retrospective of Horst's work at the Dalí Museum gives us a broad view of his talent and recognizable photographic style in 180 examples, mostly of his work in fashion. ...

    Horst. P. Horst’s most famous work is likely Mainbocher Corset. Shown is the unretouched version, with the corset gapping to the left side.
  15. Art planner: 'Beetlejuice' at the Dalí Museum, fine crafts, preview of Arts Month

    Visual Arts


    More reasons to take advantage of the Dalí Museum's extended hours to 8 p.m. Thursday and admission of $10 after 5 p.m.: Its Cult Classic series features a free screening of Beetlejuice, the 1988 creepy-fun film starring Michael Keaton, above. It starts about 8:30 p.m. in the Avant Garden. But come early to see the superb permanent collection and a new exhibition of photographs by Horst P. Horst at a discount (admission is usually $24) inside the museum. Beginning at 7 p.m., food trucks (Hott Mess, P.J. Rick's and Krepelicious) will be parked outside, and garden games and costume contests will be in the garden. Craft beer tasting tickets are $1. This is the last Cult Classic event for the summer at the Dalí, 1 Dalí Blvd., St. Petersburg. (727) 823-3767. ...

    A painting by Syd Solomon at Allyn Gallup Galleries.