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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. Interview: Internationally renowned artist Alex Katz brings works to Tampa Museum of Art

    Visual Arts

    When leaders at the Tampa Museum of Art got surprising news that Alex Katz would be stopping by to see his exhibit and mingle, it was a big deal.

    Some have called the 89-year-old New Yorker one of the most important living American artists. He is visiting the museum for a walkthrough Wednesday evening, then meeting an exclusive group of donors and museum members and answering questions. The large exhibit of works by Katz opens to the public Thursday....

    Alex Katz, Ariel, 2016. Courtesy of the Tampa Museum of Art.
  2. Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg to lose major impressionist works

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg will soon say goodbye to a cache of works by some of the most beloved artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, among others, which have been displayed on gallery walls for decades, are being reclaimed by the estate of the deceased owner whose family placed them at the museum as long-term loans. The plan is to auction them at Christie's in New York in the spring....

    Monet’s Springtime in Giverney is one of the pieces leaving the Museum of Fine Arts. It was part of a long-term loan, but the owner’s estate plans to auction the paintings.
  3. Review: Museum of Fine Arts takes to the highway with 'Open Road'

    Visual Arts

    The road trip: It's often the subject of a rueful and riotous experience, a maker of memories. It is a symbol of breaking free, finding the new and novel, searching for an adventure.

    "The Open Road" at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg offers a compendium of its meanings in a more provocative way, exploring philosophically the meaning of travel and new implications when car ownership became a given and changed our perceptions of American life....

    Florida, Joel Meyerowitz’s archival pigment print, is part of “The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip.”
  4. Meet new Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg director Kristen A. Shepherd

    Visual Arts

    Kristen A. Shepherd believes the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is just great. But she believes even more that it can be greater.

    Shepherd, 45, was appointed executive director in December after Kent Lydecker's retirement. She is its sixth director since the museum opened in 1965 and its first female leader. In a recent discussion about change, she spoke mostly in generalities because, she says, she's in the information-gathering phase....

    Kristen Shepherd is the new executive director of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.
  5. Exhibit of 'Star Wars' costumes and drawings coming to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    A glamorous component of that famous galaxy far, far away is landing in St. Petersburg.

    The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg announced it will host "Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume" as the only Florida venue of the nationally traveling show. It opens Nov. 11.

    Sixty-one handcrafted costumes and additional concept drawings by top professionals in the film industry are included in the show. They have been culled from the archives of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, founded by filmmaker George Lucas, who created and directed the first Star Wars film in 1977 and developed it into a mega-franchise. Many of the characters in the saga of good-versus-evil have become iconic, closely identified with their attire....

    Queen Amidala, Throne Room Gown from 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.' This costume will appear at the 'Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume' exhibit, coming to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Nov. 11, 2017. Copyright 2015, Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. Used under authorization.
  6. Art Planner: New art shows at Tampa galleries, Dunedin art center and Sarasota's Ringling Museum

    Visual Arts

    HAPPENING IN TAMPA: A LOT

    Tampa has lots of art opportunities beginning Friday. Notable ones are in Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and South Tampa, three different neighborhoods for three different events. I can't recommend choosing one over the other; they all sound great. But consider that Palehorse's Lucha Libre in Tampa Heights is a two-night gig; First Friday Seminole Heights is one night only, but it does return each month; and Shark Toof's art at Cass Contemporary gallery in South Tampa has a longer run. But the gallery's opening reception will be a good time....

    Nathan Beard’s paintings are on view at Red Door No. 5 during First Friday Seminole Heights.
  7. Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg chooses new director

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than 30 years ago, a Safety Harbor middle-schooler visited her first art museum. In December, she returns to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg as its new director.

    During a meeting Tuesday morning, the museum's board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Kristen Shepherd, 45, to the job after a monthslong search to fill the position after Kent Lydecker retired in February. She will be the museum's sixth director since its opening in 1965 and its first female director....

    Kristen Shepherd has been named the new director of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. She has previously held positions at Sotheby’s, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. [Museum of Fine Arts photo] 
  8. Art Planner: Latino artists at MFA St. Petersburg, an artful celebration of Willie Wonka

    Visual Arts

    OPENING AT MFA: OUR AMERICA

    Diversity is one of the great hallmarks of America. How timely, then, is "Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art" opening Thursday at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. Sixty-two modern and contemporary artists are represented in this exhibition on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

    The media in the show are diverse, too: vintage posters (technically prints), painting, photography and sculpture, for example. Themes range from the political — especially the growing activism in the 1960s — to family and faith. It continues at the museum, 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, through Jan. 22. ...

    Murals and paintings celebrate Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Bloom Art Center.
  9. Art planner: Walking mural tours in St. Pete and new gallery shows around Tampa Bay

    Visual Arts

    CELEBRATE FALL: WALK THE MURALS

    Now that the worst muggy days are over (we hope), the Central Arts District in downtown St. Petersburg has resumed its popular Saturday mural walking tour. It covers those within a four-block area with about 30 examples. These are not all the newest ones from the recent SHINE Mural Festival; those spread well beyond the district and would make for an arduous transit on foot. There are some of the new ones, though, examples from last year's festival and ones privately commissioned. Having taken a tour, I attest to its fun factor. It's also informative, with the guide imparting the stories behind the murals' creation. Selfie fanatics will have a blast!...

    A photograph by Lynn Saville from the “Dark City” series is shown at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.
  10. Enjoy a Norman Rockwell moment at Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Norman Rockwell, beloved American painter and illustrator, has landed a long-term presence in the Tampa Bay region. We have had special exhibitions of his works that came and went in a few months, but an extended loan from an anonymous lender puts one of his paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg for an unspecified time.

    Rockwell (1894-1978) was famous for the Saturday Evening Post covers he created from 1916 to 1963. For most of those decades, they represented an America of our aspirations and imaginations, one in which goodness and simple truths and values were an assumption of daily life. He also depicted relationships in poignant, sweet or humorous ways (sometimes all three at once)....

    Norman Rockwell, Untitled (Two Gentlemen Sharing a Pot of Coffee), c. 1930, oil on canvas. On loan in recognition of Jack Evans.
  11. Peek inside the Chihuly Collection's new location in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It's still a construction site, but the relocated Chihuly Collection still reveals many glimmers of its future in its new space at 720 Central Ave.

    Workers, installation experts and executive director Andy Schlauch were hustling to finish the galleries and set up the retail store before a patrons' event Friday evening and grand opening Saturday. All will be in place by then, Schlauch said, and the glass vessels and multipiece works by Dale Chihuly, the most famous studio glass artist in the world, will be seen in many new lights. ...

    Workers install the Float Boat exhibit in the Chihuly Collection’s new location. The exhibit has a larger space then the old one. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  12. Art Planner: Chihuly Collection reopens, free family day at Tampa Museum of Art

    Visual Arts

    CLEARLY GOOD NEWS: CHIHULY COLLECTION REOPENS

    The beloved, bedazzling vessels and installations of studio glass by world famous artist Dale Chihuly are back on public view in their new location beginning Saturday. The Chihuly Collection is now at 720 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, across the street from its owner, the Morean Arts Center. The festive day begins with a ribbon-cutting at 9:30 a.m. followed by a block party that will occupy Central Avenue, which will be closed to traffic and filled with food trucks, food vendors and music until 7 p.m....

    A drawing by Zachari Logan at the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery in Tampa.
  13. Can food be considered art? Tampa Bay Times art and food critics weigh in

    Cooking

    The art critic and the food critic, separated by a low cubicle wall, began a conversation weeks before the Dalí Museum's "Ferran Adria: The Invention of Food" exhibition debuted. Considered perhaps the greatest living chef, Adria was at the helm of the Spanish avant-garde restaurant elBulli until it closed in 2011. He transmogrified food, introduced new technology to cooking and boldly and spectacularly defied diners' expectations. Neither critic ever had the good fortune to eat at elBulli (hey, journalists' salaries), but Adria's work, as well as the work of his proteges and acolytes, prompted each critic to ponder one main question: Can food be art?...

    Pictures of dishes from elBulli, as well as utensils and vessels created for those dishes, are part of “The Invention of Food.”
  14. Art Planner: Glass pumpkins, art walks in Tampa and St. Pete

    Visual Arts

    PUMPKIN PATCH: PHOENIX GLASS STUDIO

    It's that time, to start thinking about visits to pumpkin patches to select your favorite gourd. Think of visiting a different kind of patch, the Glass Pumpkin Bash in which Susan Gott and other artists craft them from glass. You also can make your own! This annual fall event has several dates beginning from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday in conjunction with the monthly First Friday Seminole Heights Art Walk. Other dates are Saturday and Oct. 22, both from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. At all of them you may watch the professionals blow the pumpkins and fall leaves free or participate in a workshop for $75. Either way, you'll walk away with a feel for fall. The studio is at 811 E Knollwood St., Tampa. Advance registration is recommended for a workshop. (813) 237-3473. gottglass.com. ...

    Glass pumpkins and more by Susan Gott at Phoenix Glass Studio.
  15. Ferran Adria show at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg a visual feast

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG

    The premise on which "Ferran Adriá: The Invention of Food" is based is that exceptional creativity in any form is, in part at least, artistic expression. The Dalí makes an elegant case for it in highlighting the achievements of Adriá. The title comes from a video of the late artist Richard Hamilton discussing his admiration for him.

    If you are unfamiliar with Adriá, he is considered among the greatest living chefs, if not the greatest. His restaurant in Spain, elBulli, was the foodie pilgrimage beginning in the 1990s until he closed it in 2011. Reservations in its final years were three to four years out. He became famous for deconstructing food and changing its form or texture so that it had a familiar taste but a new appearance. He has been associated with the molecular gastronomy movement, though he doesn't like that term. ...

    Four Salvador Dal? paintings are on view, all referencing food, including his early Basket of Bread (1926) and later Eucharistic Still Life (1952).