Mel and Dorothy Tanner
January 30, 1923|
The Bronx, New York
|Occupation||Light Artist/Installation Artist|
|Known for||Lumonics Installations|
September 26, 1925|
Brooklyn, New York
October 21, 1993 (aged 68)|
Coral Springs, Florida
|Occupation||Light Artist/Installation Artist|
|Known for||Lumonics Installations|
Dorothy Tanner (born January 30, 1923) is an American light sculptor, installation artist, musician, videographer, and spoken word artist based in Denver, Colorado. Her husband Mel Tanner (September 26, 1925 - October 21, 1993) was an American light sculptor, painter, installation artist, and videographer. The couple worked very closely for over 40 years. Their main project was the creation of Lumonics  that consists of their light sculptures, live projection, video, electronics and music as a total art installation. Author and art historian, Michael Betancourt described this conceptual art as a Gesamtkunstwerk in his book, The Lumonics Theater: The Art of Mel & Dorothy Tanner, published in 2004.
Dorothy Tanner studied woodcarving with Chaim Gross at the Educational Alliance, sculpture with Aaron Goodleman at the Jefferson School of Social Science, life drawing with Gabor Peterdi and sculpture with Milton Hebald at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art. She met Mel Tanner while they were both students at the Brooklyn Museum School, and married in 1951.
Mel Tanner was a World War II veteran and attended art school under the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. He first attended Pratt Institute and then the Brooklyn Museum School, studying painting with instructors including Max Beckmann, John Ferren, and Reuben Tam. When Dorothy first visited Mel Tanner's basement studio in Brooklyn in 1950, he painted in a pointillist style, using a palette knife rather than a brush, and mixing paint with beeswax to give the paintings texture and dimensionality. He later painted on raw canvas, creating big loose shapes in the action painting style.
Career in art (1951-1969)
The Tanners moved to Syracuse, New York in 1951 and founded the Syracuse Art Workshop where Dorothy taught sculpture and Mel taught painting. They taught art to children in a summer program at Syracuse University. The residence in Syracuse had a carriage house in the rear where Dorothy set up her studio, working with materials including wood, clay, plaster, and polyester, and the high ceilings enabled her to build large metal sculptures. She exhibited her new metal sculptures in a solo show at the Key Gallery in New York City in 1962, and Mel Tanner exhibited his new paintings which combined calligraphy and geometric shapes at Key that same year. Their exhibitions stimulated them to return to Manhattan. Decades later, Ms.Tanner reflected on her view of the New York art of the early 1960s:
In 1963, the Tanners returned to New York City, where they founded Granite Gallery, an artist cooperative. They formed the Granite Art Association, which organized seminars, forums, and exhibitions, including The New Face in Art Forum and Exhibition in 1964 which took place at the Loeb Student Center at New York University. Participants included artists Louise Nevelson, Red Grooms, Norman Carton, and art critic Gordon Brown. The Tanners co-curated The New Face in Art Exhibition and showed their work with artists that included Louis Schanker, Murray Hantman, and Leo Quanchi. In 1965, they closed the Gallery and traveled extensively in Europe.
The Tanners returned to the U.S. in 1966, and on their way to San Francisco, they stopped in Miami to visit family members. Weary of traveling, they opened an art studio that they named Grove Studio. This was the same time period as the Light and Space movement in Los Angeles that included Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and James Turrell, who were experimenting with light as an art form. The Light and Space movement had affiliation with art schools and industry, whereas the Tanners were very isolated from the art world in Miami at that time. Yet it provided them with freedom to develop their art form.
Their new medium became acrylic, an industrial material that they first began to use in sculptures when living in New York and that were commissioned by corporations including Air Products and Chemicals Inc., Raytheon Corporation, and General Electric in 1963 and 1964.
Intrigued by acrylic's light transmitting qualities and color, the Tanners made cubes and pedestals that were internally lighted at their studio in Miami. Their first exhibition of the new work was at Hi-Fi Associates in Miami in the spring of 1969 when high-end stereo components were being introduced to the public. The announcement referred to it as a "new direction in sound, new directions in environment, and a new direction in art."
The light sculptures became their main focus and collaboration. In 1969, they converted the studio into a theater, and acquired the technology (a color organ) that made it possible to synchronize the light sculptures with music. Slide projectors using their hand-painted slides, overhead projectors, strobe lights, and the color organ were their new artistic toolbox. Blow-up furniture, water beds, mylar (a reflective material) on the walls, and the light sculptures created a powerful setting. Lumia art was part of the projection as well as an element in several of the light sculptures. The three main elements of lumia, defined by light art pioneer, Thomas Wilfred (1889–1968), are "form, color, and motion in a dark space." The Tanners were not familiar with the Wilfred art work, yet began their lumia art in the time period when Wilfred died in 1968. Originally called Afterimage, the name Lumonics was originated by Dave Robbins in his review, ‘Lumonics’ A Completely New Art Form in the September 18, 1970 edition of the University of Miami student newspaper, The Hurricane. This was the beginning of the Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre, chronicled in the Michael Betancourt book. The Tanners and a team of helpers presented Lumonics in Miami (1969-1979), San Diego, California (1980-81), Bangor, Maine (1981-82), and Fort Lauderdale, FL (1988-2009). From 1986 to 1987,The Tanners mounted an exhibition at the Patricia Judith Gallery in Boca Raton, Florida, their first exhibition of their light sculptures outside of the Lumonics Theatre. A new wing at the Gallery was added to house their art works.
After Mel Tanner died in October, 1993, Dorothy collaborated with long-time team member Marc Billard on her light sculptures, video, and music to further the Lumonics expression. Tanner curated the exhibit, "The Art of Lumonics", at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, Florida from March 4th to May 14, 2005 that featured both her work and that of her late husband, and the Tanner/Billard video art and music. Michael Mills, the art writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, wrote in the Museum introduction, "The exhibition is something of a departure for Lumonics in that it takes the art out of the gallery/studio/theater context and into a museum environment."
The team relocated to Denver in 2009 and operates Tanner Studio/Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery. Ms. Tanner has had several art exhibits in Denver, including VERTIGO Art Space, the Museum of Outdoor Arts, the Gallery at the Denver International Airport (2014)  and the Lakewood Cultural Center (2015). While her Creatures from Left Field  exhibit was taking place at Lakewood, Tanner was one of three senior citizens, aged 82-102 and still active in the arts, interviewed by Ryan Warner on Colorado Matters, Colorado Public Radio. The title of the program was Staying Vital As Time Marches On: Art Can Hold The Key.
The Museum of Outdoor Arts presented Lumonics Then & Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy & Mel Tanner  from January 13 to March 24 in 2017, and published a book about the exhibit  and produced a documentary. On February 10, 2017, artist and art critic, Todd Siler, discussed the exhibit at the Denver Art Museum at the Exploring the Denver Art Scene Forum, and wrote a review for the Museum of Outdoor Arts web site, Luminous Art inspiring Our Hearts-n-Minds To Dream With Wonder: Experiencing the Art of Mel and Dorothy Tanner. Mr. Siler wrote that the Tanners and their art form brought to mind other "innovative artists exploring new media and aesthetic experiences" including James Turrell, Otto Peine, and Gyorgy Kepes. 
Dorothy Tanner was invited by Denver Arts & Venues to create a site-specific art installation at the landmark McNichols Building in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, beginning January 13, 2018. The exhibit, the Lumonics Mind Spa, was open at no charge to the public seven days a week through July, 18, 2018. Dorothy Tanner and her studio continue as a Cultural Partner.  In August, 2018, Dorothy Tanner was nominated for the Arts & Culture Impact Award, presented to an individual or an organization that has made a significant and lasting impact on arts and culture in the City and County of Denver, one of the categories of the 2018 Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture. On September 25, 2018, she was announced as the recipient of the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture in the Innovation category.
The Lumonics School of Light Art was founded in Denver in October, 2018, co-directed by Dorothy Tanner and Marc Billard.
Select exhibitions and installations
- Museum of Outdoor Arts - Paintings Sculptures & Snapshots: 37 Years of Acquisitions From the MOA Collection (group show), Englewood, CO, May 8- August 3, 2018
- McNichols Civic Center Building - Lumonics Mind Spa, Denver, CO, Jan. 13 - July 15, 2018
- Museum of Outdoor Arts - Then and Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy and Mel Tanner, Englewood, CO, 2017
- Museum of Outdoor Arts - Reinventing the Image (group show), Englewood, CO 2016
- Lakewood Cultural Center - Creatures From Left Field - Lakewood, CO, 2015
- Art Gallery at Denver International Airport, A Light Journey, Denver, CO, 2014
- Museum of Outdoor Arts, Light Supply (group show), Englewood, CO, 2012
- Gallery 910, Best of Santa Fe Art District Show (group show) Denver, CO, 2010- 2011
- VERTIGO Art Space, The Light Fantastic, Denver, CO, 2010
- Union Station Fund Raising Event, Denver, CO, 2009
- 18th Annual Loveland Sculpture Invitational, Loveland, CO, 2009
- Edge Zones Art Center, Wynwood Art District, Miami FL, 2007- 2008
- Coral Springs Museum of Art ,The Art of Lumonics, Coral Springs, FL, 2006
- Museum of New Arts, Fort Lauderdale (group show), Fort Lauderdale, FL, 1989
- Patricia Judith Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida, 1986
- Hi-Fi Associates, Miami, Florida, 1969
- Loeb Center at New York University, The New Face in Art (group show), New York, NY, 1964
- Key Gallery, D. Tanner, New Sculpture, New York, NY, 1962
- Key Gallery, Mel Tanner, New York, NY, 1962
- Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery, Denver, CO, 2009-present
- Lumonics Mind Spa at The Scarlet, Central City, CO, 2016-17
- Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1987-2009
- Lumonics Performing Art Gallery, Bangor, ME,1980-81
- Lumonics, San Diego, California, 1979-80
- Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre, Miami, Florida, 1969-79
- Zikr Dance Ensemble - Lady of the Lake - 2015
- WGBH-TV - Sets for Frontline and Nova - Boston, MA - 1983
- WBZ-TV - World map - Boston, MA - 1983
- Sheraton Hotel, La Guardia Airport, New York,1978
- Hilton Hotels, Florida and Grand Bahamas, 1978
- Continental Can,New York, NY, 1965
- General Electric, New York, NY, 1964
- Raytheon Corporation, New York, NY, 1964
- Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1964
- Datamore, Inc., New York, NY,1963
- Data Processing, Inc., Rochester, NY, 1962
Public television and radio interviews
- South Florida PBS Broward Closeup
- Rocky Mountain PBS Arts District
- Denver 8, Municipal access television station for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, Denver ArtScene 
- Colorado Public Radio
- 2018 Denver Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture in the Innovation Category
Lumonics School of Light Art
- The Lumonics School of Light Art was founded in October, 2018
- Robbins, Dave (18 September 1970). "'Lumonics' A Completely New Art Form". The Miami Hurricane Student Newspaper of the University of Miami.
- Betancourt, Michael (2004). The Lumonics Theater: The Art of Mel and Dorothy Tanner. Maryland, United States: Wildside Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-8095-1193-2.
- Keegan, Alice F. (27 August 1961). "Blow Torch her 'Brush'". The Post-Standard.
- Betancourt, Michael (2005). The Lumonics Theatre: The Art of Mel and Dorothy Tanner. Maryland, United States: Wildside Press. p. 65. ISBN 0-8095-1193-2.
- "WSP10.gif". NYU. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Akston, J.J.; Brown, G. (1971). Beginning of the beginning: an unfolding story of how nature and life evolved on our planet. H. N. Abrams. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Murphy, Kay (26 May 1968). "Let There Be Light". Tropic Magazine, Miami Herald.
- Von Maurer, Bill (23 May 1969). "Decor You Can Get With". Miami News.
- Brochure printed by Hi-Fi Associates: "a new direction in sound, new directions in environment, a new direction in art" 20 March 1969
- Robbins, Dave (18 September 1970). "'Lumonics' A Completely New Art Form". The Miami Hurricane Student Newspaper of the University of Miami. Archived from the original on 18 September 1970.
- Betancourt, Michael (2004). The Lumonics Theater: The Art of Mel & Dorothy Tanner. Maryland, United States: Wildside Press. ISBN 0-8095-1193-2.
- Tedeschi, David (13 November 1970). "The Light Fantastic". Miami Herald.
- Marlowe, John (16 May 1975). "It's 2,000 Light Years from Home". Miami News.
- Robbins, Dave (18 September 1970). "'Lumonics' A Completely New Art Form". The Miami Hurricane Student Newspaper of the University of Miami. p. 10.
- Elliot, John (5 November 1973). "Lumonics Theater Total Art Trip". The Miami-Dade Downtowner, Student Newspaper of Miami Dade Community College Downtown Campus.
- Gubernick, Adrienne (26 October 1976). "Art, Sound, Light Mix in Lumonics Concerts". The Miami Hurricane Student Newspaper of the University of Miami.
- Klein, Marjorie (March 1977). "Winkin', blinkin', and nod". Miami Magazine.
- Bloomberg, Gigi (19 January 1977). "Light Show Unearthly Trip". Falcon Times Student Newspaper of Miami Dade Community College North Campus.
- Gillmon, Rita (19 September 1980). "What is Lumonics". San Diego Union.
- Rice, Ed (4 November 1981). "A Review of Lumonics: A 'Far Out' Place". The Weekly Journal.
- Furry, Eric (17 February 1982). "Lumonics: Where Light, Music and Art Converge". Sweet Potato.
- Groswiler, Paul (20 March 1982). "Let There Be Light: Sculpture Fuses Light and Sound". Bangor Daily News.
- Heidelberg, Paul (19 June 1988). "Art from the Beyond". SunSentinel.
- Mills, Michael (14 July 1991). "Tripping the Light Fantastic". Palm Beach Post.
- Morgan, Roberta (30 June 1993). "Play Tripper". Miami New Times.
- Packwood, Amy (December 1994). "Lumonics: The Virtual Reality Music of the Future". Spike, Forest Hills High School Student Newspaper.
- Crumpler, Ike (24 November 1999). "Let There Be Light". Eastsider.
- Florin, Hector (2 August 1999). "What a sight...to hear". SunSentinel.
- Plutnicki, Ken (1989). "Light Show a Theater of the Mind". Miami Herald.
- MacEnulty, Pat (10 June 1989). "Lumonics Show Has an Otherworldly Atmosphere". SunSentinel.
- Boccio, Rose (6 November 1986). "Mesmerizing' Art Form Lights Up Boca Gallery". SunSentinel.
- Sheffield, Skip (15 December 1986). "Exhibit Glows in the Dark at Boca Art Gallery". Boca Raton Daily News.
- Wolff, Millie (6 February 1987). "Patricia Judith Gallery Features Contemporary Art at its Best". Palm Beach Daily News.
- Schwan, Gary (5 June 1987). "Shining On". Palm Beach Post.
- Mann, Maybelle (31 October 1987). "Lumonics Exhibit Opens in Boca: Dazzling, Dizzying Sculpture". Jewish World.
- Koretzsky, Michael (4 August 1995). "The Scene: Bang the Drum Quickly at Lumonics". Entertainment News & Views.
- Dillon, Louise (March 1996). "New Light on Education". United Dade Teachers Today.
- Warm, Dave (9 July 1996). "Tripping The Light Fantastic...at Lumonics". XS Magazine.
- Mills, Michael (9 April 1998). "Ghosts in the Machines". New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
- Mills, Michael (3 March 2005) . "The Art of Lumonics." (Introduction to Tanner exhibition at Coral Springs Museum)
- Mills, Michael (3 March 2005) "The Art of Lumonics" Introduction to Tanner exhibition at Coral Springs Museum
- Smith, Colleen (April–May 2014). "Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery". Colorado Expression.
- Daurer, Gregory (2 February 2016). "The Lumonics Light Brigade". Confluence Denver.
- Froyd, Susan (11 January 2017). "100 Colorado Creatives 3.0: Dorothy Tanner". Denver Westword.
- Hill, Candace A. (1 February 2016). "Shatter the Status Quo". EMPOWERED WOMEN Circle.
- "'A LIGHT JOURNEY' OPENS AT DIA". The Link, Denver Arts & Venues Weekly Newsletter. February 2014.
- Coale, Laura (7 February 2014). "Experience A Light Journey at Denver International Airport". Denver International Airport.
- Burns, Justin (10 February 2014). "LIGHT ART EXHIBITION BEING SHOWCASED AT DENVER INTERNATIONAL". Aviation World.
- Rinaldi, Ray Mark (3 June 2015). "Visual Art/Dance: Looking at--and dancing with--light sculptures". Denver Post.
- Scheck, Allison (27 May 2015). "Creatures From Left Field" (News Release). Lakewood Heritage, Culture & the Arts Division.
- Warner, Ryan (10 June 2015). "Staying Vital As Time Marches On: Art Can Hold The Key". Colorado Public Radio.
- Pitton R, Wendy L (9 January 2017). "Then & Now: A Retrospective of Dorothy & Mel Tanner at MOA". ArtBeat Magazine.
- Rinaldi, Ray Mark (19 January 2017). "At MOA, plugging in, tuning out, turning up story of 94-year-old Dorothy Tanner". One Good Eye.
- Paglia, Michael (15 February 2017). "Review: Lumonics Then & Now Shines at Museum of Outdoor Arts". Denver Westword.
- Woodward, Hayley (January 2017). "Q&A: Dorothy Tanner, 94, on Lumonics, Her Light-Based Art Form". Denver Life Magazine.
- Museum of Outdoor Arts (2017). Lumonics Then and Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy & Mel Tanner. Englewood, CO: Museum of Outdoor Arts.
- Powell, Travis (7 February 2017). "Film and Forum with Dorothy Tanner at MOA". Vimeo.
- "Exploring the Denver Art Scene Part 1". 14 March 2017.
- Siler, Todd (14 February 2017). "Luminous Art inspiring Our Hearts-n-Minds To Dream With Wonder: Experiencing the Art of Mel and Dorothy Tanner" (PDF). Museum of Outdoor Arts.
- Froyd, Susan (31 January 2018). "Eight Arty Things to Do and See This Weekend in Denver". Westword.
- "Lumonics Mind Spa". McNichols Civic Center Building.
- Smith, Colleen (March 19, 2018). "Dorothy Tanner's 'Lumonics Mind Spa' Offers Blissful Light Sculptures". Art&object.
- "Mayor's Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture". Denver Arts & Venues. July 8, 2018.
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- Oquet, Charo (2008). Supermix - Union of the Diverse Contemporary Art in Miami. Miami Beach, FL: Edge Zones Press Miami. pp. 216, 217, 267, 268. ISBN 9780977862139.
- "WSP10.gif". NYU. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- "Colorado Gives". Zikr Dance Ensemble. December 5, 2017. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- Marshall, Barbara (4 February 2013). "Artists Dorothy and Mel Tanner". South Florida PBS.
- Saldo, Carrie (31 July 2013). "Arts District: Lumonics". Rocky Mountain PBS Arts District. Archived from the original on 2013.
- LeFebre, Bobby (1 July 2017). "Denver ArtScene featuring Dorothy Tanner". Denver 8, Municipal access television station for the City and County of Denver, Colorado. Archived from the original on 2017.
- Warner, Ryan (10 June 2015). "Staying Vital As Time Marches On: Art Can Hold The Key". Colorado Public Radio. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015.