Dorothy Tanner Bio

Dorothy Tanner

Dorothy and Messenger
photo by Candace Hill

“Light has the power to create, define, and solidify; or leave in shadow that which we believe to be real.”
“The major challenge for me in art is to keep under control the tyranny of a logical mind. The spirit that moves me is capricious, unruly and irreverent. Most of my work grows out of intuitive impulse–the rest gets underway by just playing.”
“There’s a space somewhere in time,
in the deep caverns of your mind,
where you know how to fly.” *


While experimenting with a wide array of media in her career as an artist, Dorothy Tanner has found acrylic (plexiglas) to be the most rewarding. It is a material that she will sculpt, paint, sandblast, or bake and shape. Some are wall sculptures, some free-standing or mobiles, while others are water sculptures. Light is an intrinsic element of the art form. LEDs have been the primary source of lighting the works since 2003. While each sculpture stands alone as an art expression, Dorothy’s interest is to integrate the works into a total environment – installations that express a powerful visual and emotional sensibility.

Dorothy Tanner was born in The Bronx, NY in 1923. She studied woodcarving with Chaim Gross at the Educational Alliance, sculpture with Aaron Goodleman at the Jefferson School of Social Science, and sculpture with Milton Hebald at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art.
It was at the Brooklyn Museum where she met Mel Tanner, and they married two years later in 1950. The Tanners moved to Syracuse, NY where they founded the Syracuse Art Workshop, teaching painting and sculpture. They also taught art to children in a summer program at Syracuse University. In 1963, they returned to New York City and founded an artists’ co-op, Granite Gallery, on East 57th Street. The Granite Art Association organized seminars, forums, and exhibitions. “The New Face in Art” Forum took place at the Loeb Center at New York University. Participants included Louise Nevelson, Red Grooms, Norman Carton, and art writer, Gordon Brown.

In 1965, after traveling extensively in Europe, the Tanners established a studio in Miami. Their interest in plexiglas and its unique light transmitting quality engaged both Dorothy and Mel in experimentation that led to the major component of their art form: light. The result of a spiritual, transcendental experience of Mel Tanner in the summer of 1969 which coincided with the American astronauts’ landing on the moon, gave birth to the Lumonics idea. Its intent was to further the mind-expanding effects of light and sound.

The Lumonics Theatre opened to the public in Miami in 1969. It was a new art form that combined painting, sculpture, fountains, live projection, electronics, aroma, and music. Music was an integral component: from exotic and classical to the contemporary music of the time. Lumonics became the Tanners’ lifetime dedication.

From 1969 to 1978, The Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre continued to grow as an experience. New sculptures were created to enhance the dream-like quality of the space. New electronic components and a laser were added to the installation. There were ongoing performances for audiences ranging from student groups and planetarium directors to drug rehabilitation groups. Several art/technology installations were commissioned for the United States and South America as well as home and office environments.

In 1978, the next major development was video production. Through videotape, the multi-media projection could now be preserved. The Tanners were no longer limited to a real-time format.
In 1979, a federal grant was accepted to create a future ecology demonstration center in San Diego, CA and to produce videotapes for cable television.

In 1981, the Tanners were commissioned to create a Lumonics environment in Bangor, Maine. A reporter wrote, “Mel and Dorothy Tanner and their associates have turned the old Canal Bank on Broad Street from a stodgy place of business and high finance into a place of genuine magic.”
In 1982, Tanner Studio relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts. WBZ-TV commissioned a world map; and Boston public television station WGBH commissioned sets for Frontline and Nova.

In 1985, the group returned to Florida. The Tanners mounted a successful exhibition at the Patricia Judith Gallery in Boca Raton. A new wing was added to house their light sculptures.
The Tanners opened their Fort Lauderdale studio to the public in 1988. It became home to the new Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre. Both the art and the performances were given much critical acclaim.

Mel Tanner passed away in 1993. Dorothy and associates Marc Billard, Barbara Ungar, and Barry Raphael have continued to expand and develop the Lumonics concept. Dorothy and Marc collaborated on electronic music and video which became part of the experience.
In 2005, “The Art of Healing” Exhibition at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, featured both of the Tanners’ art, and the video art of Tanner/Billard.

The studio relocated to Denver in September, 2008. Dorothy exhibited at Vertigo Art Space on Santa Fe Drive from October thru November, 2010. One of her light sculptures, Floating, was selected for the Gallery 910 Best of the Year exhibit.

Dorothy exhibited at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO from June 2011 to Feb. 2012. It was part of the Light Supply Exhibition, the 30-year anniversary of the Museum, and its 10th year focusing on luminal art.

“A Light Journey,” an exhibit in the Art Gallery at Jeppesen Terminal at the Denver International Airport ran from February to May, 2014, and was open to travelers 24 hours a day.
In June of 2015, Dorothy created the “Creatures From Left Field” Installation at the Lakewood Arts Center in Lakewood, CO. Dorothy’s hand-held light sculptures were featured in the Zikr Dance Ensemble’s “Lady of the Lake” Ballet that same summer.

Beginning this past summer, Dorothy and team formed an association with the 7 Healing Stars Oneness Center in Central City, Colorado, founded by Dr. Jomar Suarez, a psychiatrist. The initial collaboration takes place at The Scarlet, a former casino, located at 130 Main Street in downtown Central City. It is hosting music concerts, and plans to bring in keynote speakers, forums, conventions, workshops, retreats and world-renowned artists. Downstairs at The Scarlet, Dorothy Tanner has created an art installation, the Lumonics Mind Spa, to be utilized for relaxation and meditation, exploring the benefits of light and sound and multi-sensory stimulation on one’s well-being. Dr. Suarez is “especially interested in the therapeutic potential of {this} art for mental health treatments and applications.” The Lumonics Mind Spa is presently available to everyone on event nights. The Scarlet is a work in progress.

The studio focus is also on creating new light sculptures for public and private installations, leasing art, and presenting events at the Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery in Denver.
Currently, Dorothy’s art installation in the Black Box Gallery at the Museum of Outdoor Arts features many of her recent light sculptures, and has been part of the “Reinventing the Image” Exhibition.

 “Then and Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture of Dorothy and Mel Tanner which opens Friday, January 13, 2017 and runs through March 24.

* excerpted from Somewhere in Time by Dorothy Tanner, from her Cosmic Rap CD & DVD (1996)

Front projection wall of Lumonics Theatre, 2005
Photo by Callie Zirkle, Eastsider
© Forum Publishing Group


Jan-March 2017  Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO “Then and Now: A retrospectie of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy and Mel Tanner”
Oct-Dec 2016 Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO “Reinventing the Image”
June, 2015  Lakewood Cultural Center, Lakewood, CO, “Creatures From Left Field”
Feb-May 2014  Art Gallery at Denver International Airport, “A Light Journey”
June 2011-Feb 2012  Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO, “Light Supply”
Nov 2010-Jan 2011  Gallery 910, Denver, CO, Best of Santa Fe Drive Show
Oct-Nov, 2010  VERTIGO Art Space, Denver, CO, “The Light Fantastic”
Nov 2009  Union Station Fund Raiser, Denver, CO
August, 2009  18th Annual Loveland Sculpture Invitational, Loveland, CO
ZONES Art Fair, Edge Zones Art Center, Miami FL
Coral Springs Museum, Coral Springs, FL “The Art of Healing”
Museum of New Arts, Fort Lauderdale
Patricia Judith Gallery, Boca Raton, FL
New York Univ., Loeb Center, New York, NY
Granite Gallery, East 57th Street, New York, NY
Key Gallery, East 57th Street, New York, NY
Special Projects
Lumonics Mind Spa at the Scarlet, Central City, CO
Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery, Denver, CO
Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Lumonics Performing Art Gallery, Bangor, ME
Lumonics Environment, San Diego, CA
Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre, Miami, FL
Jefferson School of Social Science
Educational Alliance, New York, NY
Brooklyn Museum School of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Syracuse University, Special Education Department
Syracuse Art Workshop, sculpture instructor
Additional Projects
Zikr Dance Ensemble, “Lady of the Lake” (light sculptures for dancers)
WGBH-TV, Boston (sets for Frontline and Nova)
WBZ-TV, Boston (sets, including world map)
Grants “Ecology through Art” video production, U.S. Govt.
Sheraton Hotel, La Guardia Airport, New York
Hilton Hotels, Florida and Grand Bahamas
Fingers, Caracas, Venezuela (private club)
The Library, Lexington, KY (nightclub)
Bemelman’s, Miami, FL (restaurant)
Golden Lion, Boston, MA (restaurant)
House of Mo-Ko, Miami, FL (executive offfices)
Scandia, Miami, FL (installation)
Hi-Fi Associates, Miami, FL (installation)
General Electric, New York, NY
Raytheon Corporation, New York, NY
Continental Can, New York, NY
Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Pennsylvania
Datamore, Inc., New York, NY
Data Processing, Inc., Rochester, NY
Numerous Private Collections

Beacon by Dorothy Tanner (detail)
photo by Heather A. Longway
Black Box Gallery at the Museum of Outdoor Arts

Atlantis by Dorothy Tanner (detail)
photo by Heather A. Longway
Black Box Gallery at the Museum of Outdoor Arts

Shazam by Dorothy Tanner
photo by Heather A. Longway
Black Box Gallery at the Museum of Outdoor Arts


Dorothy Tanner Photo Albums on Google + (Google Art Project)
Album 1

Album 2
Album 3
Album 4
Album 5
Album 6