Mel Tanner Bio

Mel Tanner
painter, sculptor, video artist, 
performance artist, designer, teacher

“The whole idea behind everything here is to take light and make it into a shape; a shape that not only solidifies the light but the life the light touches.” 
* excerpted from interview in The Miami News


Mel Tanner was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1925. After serving in the Army during World War II, he enrolled in art school under the G.I. Bill. He attended Pratt Institute, and studied painting at the Brooklyn Museum Art School with Max Beckmann and John Ferren.

While a student at the Brooklyn Museum, he met Dorothy. They married and moved to Syracuse, NY where they opened the Syracuse Art Workshop, teaching painting and sculpture. They also taught an art class for children in the summer 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, live projection, fountains, electronics, aroma, and music. Lumonics (illumination and harmonics) became their lifetime expression.

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.

The next major development was video. Through videotape, the multi-media projection could now be preserved. They 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, a remarkable group, 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, the Tanners and associates moved 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 associate Marc Billard have continued to expand and develop the Lumonics concept.

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.

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 that features many of Mel Tanner’s light sculptures. The Lumonics Mind Spa is 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.

Since the studio relocated to Denver in the fall of 2008, Mel Tanner’s work has been posthumously exhibited at Denver International Airport, Museum of Outdoor Arts, Union Station, VERTIGO Art Space, and is currently on display at “Then and Now: A Retropective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy and Mel Tanner.”

Jan-March 2017, Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO “Then and Now: A Retrospective of Light-Based Sculpture by Dorothy and Mel Tanner (posthumous)
Feb-May 2014 Art Gallery at Denver International Airport, “A Light Journey” (posthumous)
June 2011-Feb 2012 Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO  (posthumous)
Oct-Nov, 2010: VERTIGO Art Space, Denver, CO  (posthumous)
Nov 2009 Union Station Fund Raiser, Denver, CO (posthumous)
Dec 2007 ZONES Art Fair, Edge Zones Art Center, Miami FL (posthumous)
Coral Springs Museum (posthumous)
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 and Sound Theatre, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Lumonics Performing Art Gallery, Bangor, ME
Lumonics Environment, San Diego, CA
Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre, Miami, FL
Pratt Institute, New York, NY
Brooklyn Museum School of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Syracuse University, Special Education Department
Syracuse Art Workshop, sculpture instructor
Additional Projects
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 offices)
Scandia, Miami, FL (installation)
Hi-Fi Associates, Miami, FL (installation)
Museum of Outdoor Arts, Englewood, CO
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
Friends of The Whitney Museum
Numerous Private Collections

Blinker_1000 Blinker
 Wall Sculpture
40″T x 35″W x 9.5″D


BlueField_1000 Blue Field
 Wall Sculpture
31″T x 31″W x 8″D


Wall Sculpture
30″T x 30″W x 8.5″D


 Wall Sculpture
31″T x 52″W x 10″D


Wall Sculpture
33″T x 33″W x 8″D


Free-standing Sculpture
90″T x 35″W x 22″D


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 onetwothreeskethc_miniOne Two Threemini

Mel Tanner, Commercial Installation, Sarasota, FL
Mel Tanner Photo Albums on Google + (Google Art Project)
Album 1
Album 2
Album 3
Album 4
Album 5