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Seeing the Light

A 93-year-old artist looks back on decades of unconventional work.

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While Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Who were all busy playing with their lasers, Westminster artist Dorothy Tanner was inventing a different kind of light show. In the ’60s, together with her late husband, Mel, the now 93-year-old created an artistic style known as Lumonics, a technique that involves LED-lit abstract sculptures backed by soundtracks that add to the display’s mood. Lumonics soon took off, and the Tanners brought the art form with them, often collaborating with theater troupes and musicians, when they moved to places as far-flung as Miami and Maine. Several years after Mel died, Dorothy moved to Colorado, where she opened Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery at Tanner Studio. “Palm trees and flatlands become boring after a while,” she says. By that point, Dorothy had been diagnosed with glaucoma and macular degeneration. But even though her vision is deteriorating, she hasn’t stopped creating. In fact, you can still see her immersive installations in Then and Now: A Retrospective Exhibition of Light-Based Sculptures by Dorothy & Mel Tanner, debuting January 13 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts.

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