Dorothy Tanner celebrated her 95th birthday in Denver’s McNichols Civic Center Building during the installation of her most recent multi-media gallery titled “Lumonics Mind Spa: Stretching the Body, Mind and Spirit.”
It’s no stretch to say that Tanner ranks among the oldest working commercially successful artists in America. “I’m 95 and still making art,” she said. “I’m upright. Not too decrepit. I only look 80!”
Her light-hearted sense of humor and spiritual bent are evident in the site-specific exhibit on the first floor of the former Carnegie Library. The Lumonics team created the Mind Spa as a multi-sensory gallery darkened to display 20 glowing light sculptures. A mesmerizing psychedelic video of their art loops on a large screen. The space is hushed except for calming music. The effect is a cross between a phosphorescent cave, a serene chapel, and an LSD trip. The Lumonics Mind Spa’s stated intention is to help visitors “achieve greater spiritual awareness.”
“I’ve become less intellectual in my approach to everything and more spirit-based. Light is a conduit to spirit,” Tanner said. “And sound is so basic to us. Without the beat of our heart we don’t exist. The Mozart effect is very real. There’s so much science about the benefits of color and light and sound, it’s almost cliché now.”
Tanner heads the team of four artists who live in community and comprise Lumonics.
“Living together, the art is always in the air,” said Barry Raphael, the Lumonics archivist and publicist.
Tanner’s trio of collaborators are young enough to be her children. The small art tribe assists her increasingly in her process as her eyesight and hearing fail.
“We find ways to work,” said Marc Billard, a Lumonics collaborator and fabricator since 1972. “Even with her diminished eyesight, her color balance is still great.”
“She’s an inspiration to all of us,” said Barbara Ungar, who manages Lumonics’ bookkeeping and assists Billard in the studio.