Dorothy Tanner poses with her Lumonics sculpture "Logo."
Dorothy Tanner poses with her Lumonics sculpture "Logo."
Candace Hill

Remembering Light Artist Dorothy Tanner of Lumonics

Bronx-born artist Dorothy Tanner, a luminary in the art world for decades and a resident of the Front Range for the past dozen years, died in her sleep on Thursday, July 23, at the age of 97.

In 1963, Tanner, along with her husband Mel, who passed away in 1993, founded Lumonics, the longest-running light-art studio in the United States. The Tanners made their name building illuminated, geometric plexiglass sculptures and multimedia light and sound installations with a spiritual bent and an emphasis on their works' healing properties.

"The spiritual aspects of music combined with the effects of light and color on the human psyche are more powerful than when presented singularly," Tanner told Westword's Susan Froyd in 2017, when the artist was honored as a Colorado Creative.

She and her team, who lived and worked collectively in Westminster, came to Colorado in 2008, and have shown their work at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in the exhibit Then & Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy & Mel Tanner, as well as at the Lumonics Mind Spa —Stretching the Body, Mind and Spirit at the McNichols Building.

Tanner was drawn to Colorado because of "the vitality, the attitude and the altitude," she said.

Dorothy Tanner, "Enigma," 2014.
Dorothy Tanner, "Enigma," 2014.
Dorothy Tanner

Tanner co-founded the Lumonics School of Light Art with fellow artist and longtime collaborator Marc Billard in October 2018. At workshops and camps hosted by the school, students study the form that the Tanners honed over the decades.

Billard, Barbara Billard and Barry Raphael, the remaining members of Lumonics studio, say they will carry on the Tanners' legacy. They plan to organize more mind spas and continue to teach the next generation of light artists, they said in a statement announcing Dorothy Tanner's death.

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"The members of Lumonics want to thank all the wonderful people in Denver who have made them feel so welcome and contributed to the success of Lumonics," they wrote. "And thank you to the many people from all over the country and world who have expressed their appreciation for the Tanners and their art these past 54 years."

Because of COVID-19, Tanner's memorial will be postponed until a later date.

Instead of sending flowers, Tanner's associates are asking people to make donations in her memory to the Lumonics GoFundMe Campaign, to help the organization continue its work through the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Dorothy Tanner's work is currently on display as part of the Lumonics Mind Spa, at the Thornton Arts & Culture Center, 9209 Dorothy Boulevard, in Thornton. The show runs through September 25; find out more here.

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