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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

Email: lbennett@tampabay.com

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  1. Art Planner: Portraits of the Museum of Fine Arts and Jeffrey Kronsnoble at Clayton

    Visual Arts

    FACE TIME: PORTRAITS AT THE MFA

    Ah, the portrait. It seems like such a straightforward art: portray a person as you see him. But things get in the way of verisimilitude — the vanity of the sitter or the ego of the artist, for example. The best portraits balance both impulses in finding an essence in an individual without sacrificing individual expression. "Contemplating Character: Portrait Drawings and Oil Sketches From Jacques-Louis David to Lucian Freud," opening Feb. 13 and continuing through May 29 at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, gives viewers 152 examples of portraiture from the late 18th into the 20th centuries. Some of the artists, such as Freud, almost always used people as their subjects. The photographer Brassai, on the other hand, is famous for his moody scenes of Paris. All the works come from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, a curator emeritus of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco who has collected portraits for decades....

    Sir Alfred Hitchcock, 
Self-Portrait, Profile, c. 1960, pen and ink on paper.
  2. Review: 'Disney and Dalí' exhibit a delightful look at two dreamers

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG

    I will never again look at a classic Disney movie in the way I did after seeing "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination."

    In this shape-shifting exhibition at the Dalí Museum, Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí are shown in side-by-side comparisons to advance the thesis that, improbable as it might sound, they were kindred Surrealist souls.

    Yes, I was skeptical. ...

    Visitors view the exhibition at the Dal? Museum in St. Petersburg, including Background Painting for Destino (c. 1946, oil on masonite), center.
  3. Art Planner: Art Festival Beth-El, 2Cool Art Show, Derek Gores at the Epicurean

    Visual Arts

    FESTIVAL BETH-EL: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

    It's 43 this year but never feels old. Art Festival Beth-El, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Temple Beth-El, keeps things lively with an infusion of new artists, some avant-garde by festival standards, along with a lineup of returning favorites. Other features include space dedicated to an outdoor sculpture garden, a selection of limited-edition signed prints from Syd Entel Galleries in Safety Harbor and the Avenue of Shops with lighter (more affordable) art, jewelry and crafts. (One of my favorite Christmas gifts ever came from the event, an adorable little evening handbag from a friend.) Like most festivals, it has a feel-good component with art created by students from Pinellas County public and private high schools and scholarships for winning schools. ...

    Christine Peolquin, mixed media.
  4. Famed artist Jaume Plensa brings his huge head sculptures to Tampa

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA — Talk to Jaume Plensa about his art and you are just as likely to have a discussion about gravity, non-corporeal beauty and the protective power of poetry.

    Plensa, 61, has achieved international fame, critical praise and many awards in the art world for his figurative sculptures that are unlike any others. For one thing, most of them are huge.

    Plensa (first name pronounced jaw-meh) visited the Tampa Museum of Art Friday to look over an installation of his work and sit down for an interview in advance of Sunday's opening of "Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape."...

    Jaume Plensa touches Silent Rain, which consists of poems made of iron letters.
  5. Review: New exhibits by Brazilian artists capture a nation's tension

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA

    Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the world's fifth-largest country, so to write that an exhibition of Brazilian art has a deep sense of place is to acknowledge that the place is big. Yet "Histórias/Histories: Contemporary Art From Brazil" at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, with only a handful of participants, gives us a sense of what being Brazilian means, especially to those who share no part of the dazzle of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. Each of the five artists has different practices, but the show is unified by curator Noel Smith's use of the tension between the growing urbanity of the artists' country and the inevitable shrinking of Brazil's rural and forested areas. In Caio Reisewitz's landscape photography, that exploration is more literal; in Virginia de Medeiros' digital photographs, overpainted as lush portraits, that tension is expressed in the human consequences. ...

    Artist Sandra Cinto, left, prepares to sign some of her prints with USF Graphicstudio manager Tom Pruitt, right, in the workshop of the USF Contemporary Art Museum.
  6. Art Planner: Jaume Plensa at Tampa Museum of Art and samurai swords at Ringling Museum

    Visual Arts

    MONUMENTAL: JAUME PLENSA AT TMA

    This is a big show in every sense of the word. Jaume Plensa is one of the world's finest and most famous artists working in public spaces. His enormous figurative sculptures, clean and serene of line, belie complex conceptual ideas. An exhibition of his work opens at the Tampa Museum of Art on Sunday and will be one of 2016's must-see exhibitions. His work will be seen in the museum's galleries but sculptures installed outside and in the atrium, on view to everyone with admission or not, are a gift to the community from the museum. ...

    A samurai suit of armor dates to the first half of the 1800s.
  7. Review: Two photographers find surfaces and depths in exhibitions at FMOPA

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA

    Two new shows at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts are a good pairing of opposites. On one floor are two series by Gohar Dashti, an Iranian photographer who juxtaposes the spare landscape of her country with peopled tableaux representing the disruptions and loss through years of turmoil. On another floor are seascapes by Sandra Gottlieb that are a meditative counterpoint to the emotionally charged works downstairs. ...

    Gohar Dashti, Pieta from the “Stateless” series, 2015, archival digital pigment print.
  8. Art Planner: Sarasota Winter Fine Art Festival, Kara Walker, Peter Max, miniature art in Dunedin

    Visual Arts

    FESTIVAL NEWS: ART WITH A BARK

    You may assume a few givens about an art festival: Many artists and craftsmen will fill their booths with a plethora of media; the event will be free (though not the art); and the weather will be either good or bad. All of that is true of the fourth annual Sarasota Winter Fine Art Festival, which features 130 artists from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 801 Gulfstream Ave....

    You can meet Peter Max this month.
  9. Art Planner: New gallery shows, free receptions in St. Petersburg and Tampa

    Visual Arts

    ART WALK: NEW YEAR, NEW SHOWS

    It's time for the monthly Second Saturday Art Walk in St. Petersburg and, as always, galleries will be offering up new shows. The walk keeps getting bigger, with dozens of venues stretching ever farther west of the downtown core and parking is a lot easier beyond the bustle of Beach Drive. Shops and restaurants let you make an evening of the event along with trolleys to ferry you around. Most galleries in the city's five arts districts stay open until 9 p.m., so make it a date night!...

    A small-scale work, Chrysanthemum, by Allseandra Peters, displayed at CASS.
  10. The best exhibits from Tampa Bay art museums in 2015

    Visual Arts

    Unlike 2014, the past year wasn't one of big, headline-grabbing art exhibitions. Instead, we saw a parade of thoughtful shows calling our attention to artists we knew slightly or not at all and those we were able to know better. There are many worthy ones to note, but here's what was at the top of my list for each museum.

    > Leepa Rattner Museum of Art

    We said good-bye to Lynn Whitelaw, the museum's founding director who retired in October. By choice he had stepped down to spend his remaining time at the museum as its chief curator, doing what he loved most: managing the permanent collection and organizing temporary exhibitions. His final shows demonstrated his gifts as a curator. "Henry and Abe: Finding America" had been in the planning for years and in it he brought to life an amazing friendship through the art of Abraham Rattner and writer Henry Miller. "Ralph Wickiser: A Retrospective" introduced us to a minor artist, "minor" perhaps because of the vagaries of art history. This exhibit puts a fine artist into the context of acclaim that can come and go, parallel, in a way, to Abraham Rattner's standing in the art pantheon. You still have time to see it; it continues through Feb. 7....

    M.C. Escher’s Reptiles, a lithograph from the Dal?’s exhibit under his name.
  11. Art Planner: Sand mandala at a museum, realism and Cuban art

    Visual Arts

    SANDS OF TIME: MANDALA AT MFA

    Sand mandalas are gorgeous works of art. Even more, they are physical manifestations of the Buddhist belief that material life is transitory. Probably the greatest living practitioner of sand mandalas is Losang Samten and he will create a mandala at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE, beginning Sunday.

    Samten is a scholar who for many years was a Buddhist monk serving for several years as the Dalai Lama's personal attendant. The spiritual leader sent Samten to the United States in 1988 to introduce the art form to the West. Since then, he has created mandalas at major museums and educational institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Columbia University and Harvard University. He also was a technical adviser for and appeared in Kundun, Martin Scorsese's film about the Dalai Lama. ...

    Bill Farnsworth, The Purchase, oil on panel.
  12. Art planner: For the holidays, rent a movie about an artist, prop up your feet and relax

    Visual Arts

    HOME MOVIES: FILMS THAT BRING ARTISTS TO LIFE

    Today, things should finally slow down. Today, I hope you can begin fully to relax and enjoy the holiday. In that spirit, I suggest an alternative to going somewhere for your art fix: How about a movie at home? These are some of my favorite ones about artists, spanning five decades. Most are available through cable or online. I'm not saying they're the best movies ever made or that they're necessarily accurate in a documentary sense, but they catch the essence of their subjects and brought me enjoyment through the years. Happy holidays!...

    Work is under way on the new Chihuly Collection site.
  13. Visit from Cuba's arts leaders sparks hope for cultural exchanges with St. Petersburg

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG

    A year ago, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    A year later, nine Cubans prominent in the country's arts community, including representatives of Cuba's Ministry of Culture, took advantage of new travel opportunities to visit St. Petersburg. Their hosts are the city's Downtown Partnership and St. Petersburg officials. ...

    Joe Jimenez, Edwards Group vice president, center right, translates for Florida Orchestra president and CEO Michael Pastreich as they welcome the delegation to the Mahaffey.
  14. Art Planner: Lunch and a show at the Tampa Museum of Art and Dali

    Visual Arts

    TAMPA MUSEUM OF ART: NEW MOBILE SWINGS IN

    It has been a while since the colorful Alexander Calder mobile left its perch in the museum's soaring atrium to return to its owners. (And we thank them for the long-term loan beginning in 2010 when the current building opened.)

    Now a replacement has been installed, a hanging sculpture by German artist Wolfgang Flad. The work consists of about 30 wooden elements inspired by natural forms, and utilizes recycled materials. The artist spends time each year in Florida so Kiss and Tell also has a resemblance to our mangroves....

    ? 2015 the M.C. Escher Co., the Netherlands. From the collection of the Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece.
M.C. Escher, Reptiles, 1943, lithograph.
  15. Discovering Ralph Wickiser in exhibition at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

    Visual Arts

    TARPON SPRINGS

    The book on 20th century art is still being written, though there are names — Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, for example — that are givens. I'm interested in the less commonly acknowledged artists, the Ralph Wickisers of the art world.

    Ralph Wickiser, you ask? So did I.

    A retrospective at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art curated by Lynn Whitelaw is a fine introduction....

    Ralph Wickiser, Fallen Cross #3, Yellow Orange, gouache.