#42: Dorothy Tanner
Bronx-born nonagenarian Dorothy Tanner and her late husband, Mel Tanner, began building Plexiglas light sculptures in the hip ’60s, but the two were always more than sculptors. Rather, their life’s work was a spiritually driven multimedia gestalt of music, motion and mind-blowing visuals they dubbed Lumonics. Since Mel’s death in 1993, Dorothy has continued to carry the Lumonics torch, relocating her studio to Denver in 2008. As a preview to the first comprehensive retrospective of their work, opening on January 13 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, we invited Dorothy Tanner to enlighten our readers with her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Dorothy Tanner: I would collaborate with a great music composer like Beethoven, Mozart or Rachmaninoff. The spiritual aspects of music combined with the effects of light and color on the human psyche are more powerful than when presented singularly.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Neuroscientists who are exploring the altering of neural patterns, which can result in new pathways to physical and psychological health. One trailblazer is Lisa Wimberger and her Neurosculpting Institute here in Denver.
What's your day job?
The same as my night job.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would create a facility located in natural beauty, perhaps in the mountains, where people could enjoy the environment, partake in mineral springs, walk through forests and meadows, and benefit from a plant-based diet. A center would be dedicated to light and sound stimulation and other pleasurable healing modalities, and utilize the light sculptures that Mel and I have created over the years to that end.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
The vitality, the attitude and the altitude.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Provide more support.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I don’t feel comfortable with making that kind of assessment since my eyesight and hearing have been diminished.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am very excited about the retrospective that opens January 13 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts. It spans more than sixty years of art created by Mel and me. I am grateful to MOA director Cynthia Madden Leitner and her extraordinarily talented staff for bringing this exhibition to fruition. It is especially pleasing to be able to display much of Mel’s work that has never been seen in Colorado.
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With my longtime associates Marc Billard, Barbara Ungar and Barry Raphael, we are creating an art installation at the Scarlet in Central City, which is a new music venue and community center in a former casino on Main Street. We are in the process of completing the downstairs Lumonics Mind Spa, which includes light sculptures, a pyramid and video. The other three floors are also a work in progress. One goal is for the Lumonics Mind Spa to be open daily for relaxation and meditation. The Scarlet is part of the 7 Stars Oneness Center, founded by Dr. Jomar Suarez, MD, a practicing psychiatrist in Colorado. He is especially interested in the therapeutic potential of this art-form for mental-health treatments. We plan to work closely with him to develop a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, focusing at first on veterans. The project is titled Free PTSD Treatment for Veterans, and will be listed soon on the GoFundMe site. We will also have info about this on the Lumonics website.
Lumonics, Then & Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy & Mel Tanner opens with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, January 13, and runs through March 24 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood.. Learn more about Dorothy Tanner and Lumonics online at the website, on Facebook or on Instagram.