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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. 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....

    Jill Sigman builds Hut at the Ringling Museum.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. ...

Salade Nicoise is a fresh dinner choice.
  4. 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. ...

    River Glow by Wannemaacher Jensen Architects
  5. CASS art show features Eckerd College professor

    Visual Arts

    Kirk Ke Wang, a multifaceted artist and professor at Eckerd College, has a new show at CASS, the Contemporary Art Space and Studio. "Yes and No," an installation of paintings, photography, sculptures and video, opens with a free reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the gallery, 2722 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. The show continues through April 4. Free.

    Lennie Bennett, Times art critic

    Image from Kirk Ke Wang
  6. Show of Geoffrey Gorman's fantasy sculptures opens in Ybor

    Visual Arts

    Geoffrey Gorman's sculptures are fantastic, and I use that adjective to describe both their creativity and their sense of fantasy. A group of them will be on view at the art gallery on Hillsborough Community College's Ybor campus beginning Friday and continuing through March 27.

    The Santa Fe, N.M., artist is one of many who use found and recycled materials — a new show at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art with that context recently opened — but Gorman's work has such a narrative quality. He crafts identifiable animals that suggest back stories and human personalities, posed as if in stop-motion. His titles suggest storylines, too. His use of salvaged materials can be considered a metaphor, as is true of all such art, for our attitudes toward conservation versus waste. ...

    Toucans as interpreted by Geoffrey Gorman.
  7. Review: 'Monet to Matisse' a beautiful day at the beach

    Visual Arts


    For most of European history, the waters surrounding and rippling through the lands on which people lived were the most important connectors. People used those oceans, seas and rivers to find sustenance, trade with each other, relocate. They were vital practicalities. Land travel was slower and more arduous.

    The idea that, beautiful though some waterfront locations were, they could also be sources of pleasure didn't contribute to their value for most....

    Claude Monet, The Customs House at Varengeville, 1897, oil on canvas.
  8. Folk artist Mary Proctor to offer workshop Saturday

    Visual Arts

    Mary Proctor exemplifies Creative Clay's belief in the nurturing power of creativity and its mission to tap that creativity in people who might not be artistic in an obvious, conventional way.

    Proctor, now a beloved folk artist, will be at Creative Clay on Saturday for a "Make Your Own Folk Art Valentine" workshop and lecture. She wasn't a trained artist, really not any kind of artist until the mid 1990s, when she was in her 30s. Her grandparents, who had raised her, died in a house fire and Proctor was grieving their loss. She said God told her, "The door is the way," which she interpreted as a sign to take one of the old doors in the junk shop she ran and get creative with it....

    Love Flower is one of Proctor’s simpler mixed-media works.
  9. Tampa Museum of Art names new director

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA — The Tampa Museum of Art named a new executive director on Monday, tapping Michael Tomor, who has led the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas since 2006.

    Tomor, 52, is the perfect fit for Tampa, board of directors chairman Debra Williams McDaniel said.

    "This is our fifth anniversary in the building," she said. "We paid off our construction loan in December and we're refocusing on the endowment as well as looking at the collection and hope to begin collecting again."...

    The Tampa Museum of Art has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. The appointment of Michael Tomor as director comes one year after the museum lost its previous director, Todd Smith.
  10. See 'Monet to Matisse' at Museum of Fine Arts for free on Saturday

    Visual Arts

    T.he Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg celebrates its 50th anniversary with a gift to the community: free admission on Saturday to its new exhibition, "Monet to Matisse — On the French Coast," as well as all the permanent collection galleries.

    It's an important gesture for the museum because Feb. 7 is the date it opened in 1965. Museum director Kent Lydecker said a connecting idea for the show, which the museum organized, was our own coastal geography. It is also a theme that has never been explored in a single exhibition: painters who found inspiration along both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of France. ...

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Figures on the Beach, 1890, oil on canvas.
  11. Hot ticket: 2Cool Art Show in charming Gulfport

    Visual Arts

    Gulfport is about as charming as a small city gets with its lost-in-time, humanly scaled architecture, a cluster of good restaurants and its bustling arts scene. That scene will get even busier on Saturday and Sunday with the 2Cool Art Show at the historic Gulfport Casino, 5500 Shore Blvd.

    The show, in its fourth year, is an off-shoot of the popular Cool Art Show in the summer, which has been going for 26 years. Both are organized by the Professional Association of Visual Artists. It's smaller than most art festivals with 38 artists and fine crafts people showing and selling works in popular media. But there is so much to do in downtown Gulfport, you can easily make a day of it. Hours both days are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. ...

    Susan Rollins Gehring, Red Fish Creek, linoleum block print.
  12. It's a 3-D art party at Bloom in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    Organizers are describing it as "eye-popping," but it sounds more like an out-of-body experience. "Bloom 3D Art Show" is a one-night event on Saturday with all the art in three dimensions. (Special glasses provided.) About two dozen artists will transform the galleries at Oleson Gallery and Bloom Art Center, a repurposed warehouse at 910 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Shown is a chromodepth painting by Sebastian Coolidge, best seen with the 3-D glasses. Three live bands will entertain beginning at 9:30 and a donation bar will be available. The event is from 7 p.m. to midnight and admission is $9. Sounds like a good party. ...

    Chromodepth painting by Sebastian Coolidge at Bloom Art Center, St. Petersburg.
  13. How one woman launched the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 50 years ago

    Visual Arts

    “Why not have an art museum in St. Petersburg?"

    So mused a wealthy woman to herself sometime in the late 1950s.

    And so began the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, which opened its doors Feb. 7, 1965. It transformed the cultural landscape of the city, becoming an institution that was so much more than it had to be, committed from the beginning to the high standards of major museums. It rallied a broad demographic to embrace it as a source of pride and pleasure....

    This undated painting shows the older building on Beach Drive and Second Avenue NE that would be razed after the Museum of Fine Arts was completed in 1965. During construction, it was used by the museum for offices. 
Images from Museum of Fine Arts archive and Thomas U. Gessler
  14. Visual art show at Studio@620 features new curator, Kenny Jensen

    Visual Arts

    The Studio@620 is one of the great success stories on our regional cultural map. In its 10 years, it has attracted a small army of loyal donors and volunteers that have kept it self-sustaining. Its only mission seems to be director Bob Devin Jones' mantra of "yes" to any and all requests to use the space for community and cultural enrichment and especially to support fledgling performing arts groups. ...

    A work by artist Kenny Jensen from his show at Studio@620, where he is the new manager.
  15. Art Festival Beth-El has art for everyone — without weather worries

    Visual Arts

    I write a lot about the pleasure art can bring us. A great way to have that kind of experience is at the wonderful art festivals dotting our yearly calendars. First out of the gate for 2015 is Art Festival Beth-El on Sunday and Monday.

    The festival offers great stylistic variety even though everything is contemporary. In years past, I have seen still lifes painted in the style of Old Masters, futuristic-looking glass sculptures and everything in between. It always has a nice selection of fine jewelry. (Hint: Valentine's Day)...

    So Young Park, jewelry