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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. Paula Brett's large scale mandalas are shopping carts as art

    Visual Arts

    We associate mandalas, especially the Buddhist sand ones, with ritual and serenity, created slowly with solemn ceremony.

    Paula Brett's version relies more on chaos theory and the clash of shopping carts.

    Using a $3,000 grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the artist and her helpers have spent recent Saturdays whizzing them around vacant big box store parking lots in the predawn hours to form large mandalas. Yes, she does it with the permission of the stores; this is art, not a flash mob....

    An aerial photograph of a shopping cart mandala by artist Paula Brett.
  2. Straz Center features 'Faces of Tampa Bay' in free exhibit along Riverwalk

    Visual Arts


    They're the people we might encounter anywhere: those with dogs, those in casual or business clothes, those in uniform. We pass them every day, noticing some more than others. But do we really see them?

    An exhibition organized by the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, featuring large-scale photographs of our local population, asks you to stop and stare as you traverse Tampa's Riverwalk, where the center sits. It's the work of Daniel Chauche, who spent two weeks roaming the Tampa Bay area snapping portraits of people who mostly just happened by the white backdrops he set up in Tampa, Tarpon Springs and St. Petersburg....

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn in "Who We Are: Faces of Tampa Bay" at the Straz Center.
  3. Art planner: Harold Edgerton at MFA, Kalup Linzy at Tempus Projects, last chance for "Figure Examined"

    Visual Arts


    Harold Edgerton, a professor at MIT, is most widely known for his photographs, though he wasn't a professional photographer. He invented the electronic stroboscope in 1931 and went on to use short flashes of strobe lights to capture on film movements that are too fast to be seen by the eye. The images were stunning back then and remain so; National Geographic dubbed him "the man who made time stand still."...

    Nathan Beard, Exit Music #47 — Formation, 2016, acrylic on shaped panel.
  4. Art makes its mark at Opal Sands Resort on Clearwater Beach

    Visual Arts


    You arrive for your stay at the Opal Sands Resort via the valet service and enter through large doors that lead to a staircase and massive escalator whisking you up to the lobby.

    You may or may not have noticed the fountain at the entrance with seabirds etched on glass panels that seem to fly through clear, cascading water, but you definitely notice the large sculpture with more glass in myriad colors hanging above you as you ascend. Nor will a large horizontal painting of a beach scene hung behind the check-in area go unnoticed. And then your head turns to the right and you see what you have come for: an expansive view of the Gulf of Mexico bordered by white sand. ...

    Artists Mark Aeling and Carrie Jadus collaborated on the large fish sculpture that hangs over the entrance to Sea Guini, the restaurant at Opal Sands Resort on Clearwater Beach.
  5. Art planner: Goodbye to Plensa in Tampa, hello to new art in St. Petersburg, Ringling Museum

    Visual Arts




    Lots of new art is on view at the Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, beginning Saturday with a group show and three solos. "Orange State" is curated by Katherine Gibson of ArtHouse3, an outfit that highlights the abundance of talent in Central Florida, from photography to folk art. The diverse group includes Ruby C. Williams, Bud Lee, Gary Borse, Diana Lucas Leavengood, Carl Knickerbocker, Suzanne Camp Crosby and Margaret Ross Tolbert....

    The new Center for Asian Art at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota will host a community festival on May 15.
  6. Art planner: Theo Wujcik paintings, Benjamin Dimmitt photos and Mother's Day art

    Visual Arts


    Like many landscape photographers, Benjamin Dimmitt has had a mission to capture beauty, in his case that of his native Florida surroundings. And then he discovered the ecological damage at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Citrus and Hernando counties, caused by saltwater intrusion. The silver gelatin prints are beautiful and sobering. Where once there was a lush landscape, some areas have become barren zones of dead and dying plant life with ramifications for wildlife living there. The cause could be over-pumping fresh water from the aquifer, rising sea levels due to climate change or a combination. Either way it's not looking good, and Dimmitt has spent more than a year documenting the decline. ...

    Scarlets by Vallee Rae Weaver at Studio 1212 in Clearwater.
  7. Review: 'The Figure Examined' at the Tampa Museum of Art a remarkable exhibition

    Visual Arts


    Even though "The Figure Examined" at the Tampa Museum of Art has a specific focus, different tastes will be satisfied by this exhibition. With about 120 paintings, prints and sculptures by 70 artists, it's a big show, perhaps too big if you want to see all of it in a thoughtful way. But that's where its diversity is an advantage: Love realism? Prefer abstraction? You won't be disappointed either way....

    Auguste Rodin, Adam, 118, posthumous cast, 1970, bronze.
  8. Art Planner: Exquisite Corpse event, sculptor Jon Hair opens St. Petersburg Studio

    Visual Arts


    The macabre name of this surrealist exercise has nothing to do with the fanciful nature of what is essentially a collaborative game. It's being played out by artists in "Exquisite Porch," an exhibition at the Morean Arts Center, which is partnering with the Dalí Museum for a fun event.

    Some background: Exquisite Corpse began in the early 20th century with surrealist writers taking turns building on each other's words, not knowing what had been written before their turn. It created absurd combinations, including the name itself, which came from this collaborative example: "The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine." Visual artists soon embraced the idea....

    A drawing by Adonna Khare is part of a group show at CASS in Tampa.
  9. Jane Doggett, wayfinding pioneer, designed Tampa International Airport's system still used today

    Visual Arts

    Tampa International Airport is a place of wayfarers. By the millions each year, they pass through this way station. Probably more than anyone else, one woman has made it easy for all of them to find their path since the airport opened in 1971.

    Jane Davis Doggett is a wayfinder.

    Doggett, 86, is the legend you have never heard of. She has designed more than 40 "wayfinding" systems in major airports in the United States and dozens more in other large public venues such as Madison Square Garden. ...

    Jane Davis Doggett, 86, pictured in her Jupiter Island home, split her master of fine arts at Yale University between architecture and design. That strategy served her well.
  10. Art planner: Human figure explored at Tampa Museum of Art, plus new Ringling galleries

    Visual Arts


    You could call it a high form of navel gazing. Our fascination with ourselves, in the form of our forms, is centuries old and remains undimmed.

    The best example here is "The Figure Examined: Masterworks From the Kasser Mochary Art Foundation" at the Tampa Museum of Art. It features 70 artists and more than 100 paintings, sculptures and works on paper that celebrate the figure as perceived by 19th and 20th century artists. They range from realist to abstract with marquee names represented. Among them: Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, Degas, Rodin and Warhol. The show continues through May 30. The museum, at 120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 adults; $7.50 seniors, Florida educators and military; $5 students; and free for children younger than 6. (813) 274-8130.

    The Ringling’s new Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion, pictured in this architectural rendering by Lewis + Whitlock, is expected to be completed in fall 2017.
  11. Michel Delgado wins top award second year in a row at Mainsail Arts Festival in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mainsail Arts Festival, as of Sunday morning, was going off without a hitch, according to Lisa Wells, a volunteer with the event for more than 30 years and its chair for many of those. The weather was fine, the crowds strong and sales were good, she said.

    "We had a lot of new artists this year," she said, "and a lot of regulars commented on that. More just seemed to apply."...

    Michel Delgado, right, won Best of Mainsail and $10,000 for the second straight year Sunday at the annual arts festival in St. Petersburg. Delgado, who has studios in Philadelphia and Key West, had his art described as “tactile, intellectual and emotional.”
  12. Tampa Museum of Art announces proposed purchase of a monumental Plensa sculpture

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA — The monumental sculptures by Jaume Plensa on view at the Tampa Museum of Art have been a big hit, especially those that sit on the grounds outside the building overlooking Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. They will depart on May 15 when the exhibition ends. But one, museum leaders hope, will become a permanent resident.

    The museum plans to purchase Laura With Bun, a cast-iron sculpture soaring 23 feet into the air and weighing more than 18,000 pounds. It presents a striking image of a young woman, stylized almost to flatness when viewed from certain angles, that greets visitors as they walk from the parking garage to the museum. It is one of the most serene works in "Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape," a contemplative portrait that reduces the woman's features to minimal suggestions. ...

    Laura With Bun is a Jaume Plensa cast-iron sculpture that stands 23 feet tall.
  13. Art planner: How to get the most of Mainsail Art Festival in downtown St. Pete

    Visual Arts




    First and foremost, Mainsail Art Festival is about art and fine crafts. Over 40 years, it has evolved from a small exhibition for local artists to one that attracts national interest and, on average, more than 100,000 visitors during its two-day run in Vinoy Park on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront....

    Donna Batson, ceramics.
  14. Art planner: Impressionist prints at Syd Entel, Jaume Plensa lecture, MFA's Art in Bloom

    Visual Arts


    The Impressionists, a group of 19th and early 20th century artists, are among the most beloved in the Western canon. A group of about 40 prints by some of the big names will be on view and for sale at Syd Entel Galleries, 247 Main St., Safety Harbor beginning Saturday and continuing through April 30. Among the names are Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Mary Cassatt. They come from a dealer with whom the gallery has worked for many years, who acquired them over time through Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses and private collectors. All are authenticated, created during the artists' lifetimes and are part of the original printings....

    Jamie Messina and Sons is one photo in 
a series by Daniel Chauche soon to be on view along Tampa’s Riverwalk.
  15. Emotionally charged 'Homeless Jesus' sculpture in Tampa a social statement

    Visual Arts

    The sculpture titled Homeless Jesus was recently installed at the downtown Tampa campus of Hyde Park United Methodist Church. It's an emotionally charged image of Jesus huddled on a bench, shrouded by a blanket, his feet protruding to reveal the holes from the nails that affixed them to the cross during the Crucifixion. As in other countries and U.S. cities, the sculpture has invited praise and controversy but little critical commentary as a work of art....

    Homeless Jesus, a bronze sculpture by Timothy Schmalz, has been installed at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa.