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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: lennie@tampabay.com

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  1. Art Planner: Summer shows at the Polk Museum, Clayton Galleries and the Chihuly Collection

    Visual Arts

    A TRIP TO THE POLK: ENJOY THE SCENERY

    For centuries, collecting art was a pastime only for the wealthy (including the wealthy church), but with the rise of the middle class in the mid 19th century, it became an aspiration many more could afford. Travel, too, became available on a broader scale because of the convenience of expanded railroad destinations. As travelers saw more of the world, or at least became arm-chair travelers, they wanted reminders of it, so among the favorite subjects in paintings were bucolic landscapes and exotic locales....

    Dolores Coe, Passing Through, painting.
  2. A personal thank you, farewell to Museum of Fine Arts curator Jennifer Hardin

    Visual Arts

    The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg has always been a special place. But without equivocation, I say it's a better place today because of many individuals' hard work and generosity that have allowed it to grow. One of the most important architects of that growth — in its all-important permanent collection — is Jennifer Hardin, the Hazel and William Hough chief curator.

    Museum director Kent Lydecker recently announced, "with sincere regret," Hardin's resignation after 20 years on the job. I will miss her. But I'm grateful for all she has accomplished and, in the process, the ways she has benefited the community through her work. I want to honor her in this farewell column....

    Jennifer Hardin and Emmanuel Roux have lived in their Driftwood home in St. Petersburg for almost 20 years.
  3. Preview: Puppets old and new, from near and far, for young and old, on display at Florida CraftArt

    Visual Arts

    We think of puppets as playthings for children, but they have a history thousands of years old as adult entertainment. Almost every culture in the world has deployed them in some form from European hand puppets to Asian shadow puppets. A new exhibition at Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, which opens Friday and continues through Aug. 15, will stretch the definition we have of them....

  4. Don Featherstone, the reason you'll never picture Florida without pink flamingos, dies at 79

    Obituaries

    They are the birds of a Featherstone that became kitsch history. One Donald Featherstone, to be precise, who invented the plastic lawn flamingo in 1957. Mr. Featherstone has died at 79, leaving behind one of the most memorable homages to one of nature's most memorable animals.

    Floridians are possessive about plastic flamingos, believing they are unique to our peninsula, but in truth they have been sold by the millions nationwide. Madison, Wis., to the far north, designated the plastic pink flamingo its official city bird in 2009. It's probably the only lawn ornament to achieve such status....

    Artist Don Featherstone poses with his wife, Nancy, while being honored at Harvard in 1996 as a past Ig Nobel Prize recipient. The Ig Nobel Prize salutes eccentric achievements in science, medicine and technology. Featherstone died Monday, June 22, 2015, at an elder care facility in Fitchburg, Mass., according to his wife, Nancy. He was 79. [Associated Press]
  5. Major photo survey opening at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    Summer shows at regional museums used to be small and quiet, a time to rotate works from a permanent collection into or out of storage or organize a middling show that wouldn't cost much. It reflected a drop in attendance as residents took vacations and tourists stayed away.

    Population migration trends seem to have changed and so have museums' exhibition schedules. For several years, we have seen truly important exhibitions scheduled at this time of year and the new crop is no exception. ...

    Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, about 1940, printed about 1970, gelatin silver print.
  6. Award-winning Tampa photographer Bud Lee dies at 74

    Obituaries

    Bud Lee's career as an award-winning photographer took him around the world and into the presence of celebrities and world events. Just as much as for his great images, he will be remembered for the antic creativity, talent and energy to create an arts scene in Tampa both bohemian and purposeful that resonates today.

    Mr. Lee, self-described "picture maker," died Thursday at a nursing home in Plant City. He was 74. ...

    Early in his career, Bud Lee was a sought-after freelancer. His work included this undated photo of Clint Eastwood.    
  7. New art shows explore changing landscapes and printmaking

    Visual Arts

    Now that the beloved Norman Rockwell has left the building, the Tampa Museum of Art continues its celebration of American art with "Scenery, Story, Spirit: American Painting and Sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art," which opens Saturday and continues through Sept. 6. More than 50 works narrate the changing landscape and culture of the nation from the mid-19th into the 20th centuries. We see the idealized landscape of Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt juxtaposed with the gritty cityscape by George Bellows....

    Thomas Cole, The Meeting of the Waters, 1847, oil on canvas.
  8. Prints by famed illusionist M.C. Escher coming to Dalí Museum in August

    Visual Arts

    The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg is following up its current show comparing the 20th-century Spanish artist with Renaissance great Leonardo da Vinci with another master illusionist, M.C. Escher. While not as famous as Leonardo or Dalí, Escher (1898-1972) has had influence both on science and art, especially in popular culture. There is a bit of surrealism to his work and he excelled using mathematical principles to conceive of constructions impossible in reality. ...

    Drawing Hands will be in a show coming to the Dali Museum.
  9. Leepa-Rattner's 'Henry and Abe' exhibition celebrates friendship

    Visual Arts

    TARPON SPRINGS

    Henry Miller and Abraham Rattner were the unlikeliest BFFs.

    Miller's nerdy appearance masked a raunchy ego, and Rattner's burly frame and wild mane of hair hid a gentle soul. Yet close they were as we discover in "Henry and Abe: Finding America" at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. The exhibition is a remarkable achievement by Lynn Whitelaw, the museum's founding director and now its chief curator....

    This drawing is Abraham Rattner’s annotated map of his and Henry Miller’s road trip from Rattner’s book, When We Were Together.
  10. Art preview: new shows opening in Sarasota and Tampa

    Visual Arts

    Lots of new shows are coming to museums and galleries in west central Florida so there's (at least) one near you. Better yet, drive outside your comfort zone to one you haven't visited. Here are two suggestions to get you started.

    Art Center Sarasota is one of the oldest of its kind in our region and the oldest cultural institution in Sarasota. Founded in 1926, it grew to be an arts hub as the city became a nationally famous arts community populated by big names. Its building, constructed in the 1940s, is designed in the Sarasota School of Architecture, and subsequent additions have made it a true arts center with space for educational and social programs along with exhibitions....

  11. Preview: New quilts and fiber art shows at Dunedin Fine Art Center

    Visual Arts

    Summer at the Dunedin Fine Art Center means quilts. For years, the center has exhibited fine-craft quilts from national and area groups, expanding our definition of them. Still rooted in their humble origins as inexpensive coverings made for warmth from fabric scraps, the quilts you'll see here are not humble and most are no longer hand-sewn. That hand-sewing component was an issue for quilting purists but most now acknowledge the merits of computerized machines that still allow for artistic creativity....

  12. Curator at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg resigns unexpectedly

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jennifer Hardin, the longtime chief curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, resigned Friday. The announcement, sent Friday via email to the museum's board of trustees, was unexpected.

    "I think the world of Jennifer," said Kent Lydecker, the museum's director. "I can't give you any specific reason. I sincerely regret her decision."

    "I have immensely enjoyed my work at the museum," Hardin said. "I don't have any plans right now." ...

    From left, Louise Reeves, registrar, Jennifer Hardin, chief curator, Dr. Kent Lydecker, director, and Seymour Gordon, past president of the board, look over photographic prints from Russia by Alexander Ustinov.
  13. Art review: William Pachner's powerful response to Holocaust still resonates

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG

    William Pachner turned 100 on April 17. For almost 50 of those years, he had been a fine artist, putting his brushes down by 1999 only after he became blind. Two exhibitions, at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg and the Florida Holocaust Museum, honor this milestone and his remarkable career.

    Pachner didn't seem destined to be a serious painter. He was born in Czechoslovakia and studied art there but in young adulthood chose a career as a commercial illustrator. He came to the United States in 1939 and freelanced until about a year later, when Esquire magazine hired him as its art director. ...

    William Pachner, View of My Birthplace, 1958, oil on board.
  14. Tampa Bay History Center celebrates St. Augustine at 450

    Visual Arts

    Happy 450th birthday, St. Augustine!

    The Tampa Bay History Center honors the occasion with an exhibition, opening Saturday, featuring more than 40 rare maps, charts and prints that trace the city's evolution from a gritty Spanish fort in the 16th century to a pleasure spot for the wealthy in the late 19th century.

    St. Augustine is the oldest permanent European settlement in North America, founded in 1565. Its ownership bounced back and forth between Spain and Great Britain, with plenty of harassment from France, before it became a U.S. territory in the early 19th century. Its location on the Atlantic Ocean made it a strategic attraction for European countries battling for North American supremacy in the early years of settlement and attractive in a recreational way three centuries later to Northerners seeking respite from harsh winters. Henry Flagler made the migration possible with a new rail line into St. Augustine and his sumptuous Ponce de Leon Hotel, now part of Flagler College. He would later extend the railroad system all the way down Florida's east coast. (If you want a taste of that Gilded Era, make a detour to the Henry B. Plant Museum to the University of Tampa, another sumptuous hotel by another Florida developer and railroad baron. The museum is the lovingly restored Tampa Hotel that Plant built for visitors to the west coast.)...

    Ogilby, Pagus Hispanorum in Florida, 1671. The title of this, translated from Latin, is literally Spanish village in Florida.  Aside from the title, the scene depicted is not exactly what one would have seen in St. Augustine in the late 17th century. The mountains in the background are one problem, but the level of commerce and activity is exaggerated for effect.
  15. Collectors Circle selects Impressionist painting for Museum of Fine Arts

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Most museum leaders never know what, if any, gifts they'll receive each year. But at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, at least one addition to its permanent collection is a given.

    That's thanks to the Collectors Circle, a group of patrons who for 20 years have raised money for the annual purchase. They make it fun, with a twist of intrigue during a dinner at which three possibilities are presented, then voted on by the members. It's rigged only in that the choices are selected and approved by the museum's curators and fall within the group's budget. ...

    John Leslie Breck, Evening in Giverny, c. 1891, oil on canvas.