Great artists aren’t exactly well known for staying in the same place for long. That certainly was the case for Dorothy and Mel Tanner, the former of whom had a background in sculpture and the latter was an abstract painter. But they were introduced to acrylic glass (Plexiglas) and began building geometric shapes, which lead to creating lighted water fountains and more elaborate abstract sculptures in 1966.
And so Lumonics, one of the longest-running light art projects in the country, was born. Since their first light and sound experience in Miami in 1969 combined light sculptures, lasers, special effects and original music and video elements, the Tanners and their gallery have continued to experiment and grow.
“Mel had a mystical experience in the summer of 1969, right around the first landing on the moon, and he wanted the artwork to be more experiential,” said Barry Raphael, Lumonics co-archivist and team member. “The Tanners converted their warehouse art studio into a light and sound theater and created site-specific art for it.”
Raphael explained that the mezzanine became a projection booth where the Tanners created hundreds of hand-painted slides that were projected on a large wall in addition to live painting and overhead projectors. They connected all the artworks to a color organ so that they could control the light sculptures to music during the performances, he said.
Mel died in 1993 and Dorothy in 2020, but the intention of remaining members Marc Billard, Barbara Billard and Raphael is to honor their legacy. Something they’ll be doing with their new multi-sensory experience, Lumonics Immersed. A show designed to “refresh your body, mind and spirit,” as well as tribute to the Tanners, premieres from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, at the Lumonics Light and Sound Gallery, 800 E. 73rd Ave., No. 11, in Denver. The aim is to do something similar monthly, but each experience will be a unique one.
“Marc worked very closely with each of the Tanners in assembling the light sculptures, and also helped with the technical aspects of the light and sound performances,” Raphael said. “We can’t duplicate the original live performances because of space limitations and the Tanners are no longer here, but we do create the vibe and the spirit, more than 50 years on.”
The Tanners and Lumonics came to the metro area in 2008 and have done a range of exhibits. They’ll even be a part of Meow Wolf when it opens in September. And even though the Tanners are gone, the gallery remains a vibrant and creative place, Raphael said.
“It has a magical quality. It is filled with the Tanners’ light sculptures, each one unique, yet they work together so harmoniously,” he said. “People can also explore the studio where the artwork is made and visit the Lumonics School of Light Art. We teach students how to build and ‘artify’ geometric shapes, just as the artform began.”
For tickets and information, visit www.lumonics.net/immersed.
Hear the Hottest Horns at the Arvada Center
The weather has been hot lately, and all signs point to that being the way things are for a while yet. So, why not stay on brand and check out the Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra’s “Hottest Horns of the `60s & `70s!” show the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Performing with the orchestra will be long-time Tower of Power vocalist Larry Braggs, and they’ll be performing some of the biggest hits from that golden age of soul, including heaters from Earth, Wind & Fire, Blood, Sweat & Tears and others.
This show will undoubtedly be a blast, so get your tickets at arvadacenter.org/events/colorado-jazz-repertory-orchestra-horn-bands-of-the-60s-70s.
ASLD brings back Summer Art Market
The Art Students League of Denver (ASLD) is returning with its 28th Summer Art Market, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic. Presented by Meininger Art Supply, the market will feature 75 artists (including six first-time exhibitors).
Held on Saturday, Aug. 28 and Sunday, Aug. 29, in the Washington Park neighborhood, between East 1st Avenue and East 4th Avenue and between Logan Street and Sherman Street, artists will be selling a range of works, including ceramics, fiber arts, mixed media, painting, drawing, sculpture and more.
For all the information, visit asld.org/summer-art-market-current/.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week — Lakewood Symphony Orchestra at Heritage Lakewood
After a long time without brightening people’s lives with high quality music, the Lakewood Symphony Orchestra is back to doing what it does best. The orchestra is celebrating its return with a Grand Re-Opening concert held at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, 801 S. Yarrow St.
The show is outdoors, so attendees are encouraged to bring their lawn chair or a blanket for seating. People can also bring picnics or try the onsite food truck, Capitol City Wraps.
The repertoire for this concert includes music from classics like “Titanic,” “The Lord of the Rings” and Star Wars. For tickets and information, visit www.lakewoodsymphony.org.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.