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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

  1. Review: 'Italian Traditions' brings other glass artists to Chihuly Collection

    Visual Arts


    It was a happy sight: Crowds of people, mostly tourists deduced from overheard conversations, exiting and entering the dazzling galleries of the Chihuly Collection and their permanent installations of glass by the famous Dale Chihuly.

    If you're a local and have been to the collection a few times, you probably haven't visited in a while, since the Chihuly glass doesn't change. Now that the institution has a small special exhibitions space, you have reason to return. The most recent offering is "Italian Traditions," a show of 20 contemporary glass artists who mostly use traditional glass-blowing techniques perfected in Italy centuries ago. ...

    Stephen Rolfe Powell’s works include huge vessels composed of hundreds of colored glass canes as well as platters that are more straightforward.
  2. Gardens bloom in show at Florida CraftArt

    Visual Arts

    We haven't been brutalized by winter as those in the Northeast have, so we don't yearn for spring as they do. But spring still has a lot of weight here as a time of renewal and a last gasp of lovely weather before we face Florida's enervating summer heat and humidity. Gardens are at their loveliest now, and we have plenty of literal examples available to us. Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, presents "Garden of Earthly Pleasures" with more than 30 artists who create fine-craft examples of garden adornments such as fountains and sculptures along with art that summons the inspirations found in gardens. A free opening reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday will feature models wearing garden-inspired costumes by participating artists. The show continues through April 18. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Free. Lennie Bennett, Times art critic...

    Florida CraftArt
  3. Lots of excitement at Dunedin Fine Art Center!

    Visual Arts

    There's something endearing about an event that announces itself annually with a bunch of exclamation points and all-caps lettering, the equivalent of a galactic shout-out.

    CONTAIN IT! and TRASHY TREASURES! at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin, on Friday and Saturday is old enough and successful enough to transition to more understatement, but the unrestrained enthusiasm is part of the event's charm. And it has now become a TRIfecta! with EAT IT!...

    An example of a POD container’s transformation from the 2014 CONTAIN IT! at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
  4. Gasparilla Festival of the Arts announces winners

    Visual Arts

    Thousands converged on the 45th annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts Saturday but one person was probably more closely watched by the artist than any other among the throng. Elaine Gustafson is this year's juror, or judge, for the event and in her hands lay the decision for picking winning artists who would share $75,000 in prize money. This was a homecoming of sorts for Gustafson, who is the curator of collections at the Witherspoon Art Museum at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Before she assumed that job in 2009, she was director of exhibitions and collections and curator of contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art. ...

    Carolina Cleere’s Honey Child (mixed media) takes the Raymond James Financial Best of Show Award.
  5. 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....

    Courtesy of the Ringling Museum of Art
  6. 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. ...

    Teresa Testa, ceramics.
  7. 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. ...

    When you want to treat yourself, go for the Mussels in Wine Sauce With Toast and Aioli. Mussels are high in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  8. 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. ...

    Urban Pixels by Urban Conga
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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....

    Raoul Dufy, Normandy, c. 1924, watercolor on paper.
  12. 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.
  13. 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 named a new executive director. Michael Tomor  will come from the El Paso Museum of Art, which he has led since 2006. [Tampa Museum of Art]
  14. 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. ...

    Claude Monet, The Customs House at Varengeville, 1897, oil on canvas.
  15. 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. pavaartists.org. ...

    Josephina Espinosa, untitled glass vessel.