Dorothy Tanner celebrated her 95th birthday in Denver’s McNichols Civic Center Building during the installation of her 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 were evident in the 2018 site-specific exhibit on the first floor of the former Carnegie Library in Denver. The Lumonics team created the Mind Spa as a multi-sensory gallery darkened to display twenty glowing light sculptures. A mesmerizing psychedelic video of their art looped on a large screen. The space was hushed except for calming music. The effect was a cross between a phosphorescent cave, a serene chapel, and an LSD trip. The Lumonics Mind Spa’s stated intention was 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.