Connecticut College Art Department Presents: “Revisiting the Nut Museum”

Elizabeth Tashjian
Elizabeth Tashjian

The Connecticut College Art Department will present a retrospective of artist Elizabeth Tashjian’s paintings, drawings and sculptures from the 1930s through the late 1990s. “Revisiting the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian” opens on Oct. 21, and runs through Dec. 6 at Cummings Art Galleries.

The exhibition recreates the Nut Museum’s main exhibition gallery, with all of its original furnishings, art and displays. It also features a compilation of the “Nut Lady’s” media appearances on national television. Organized and curated by Professor Christopher Steiner and students from his advanced seminar, the exhibition features a comprehensive view of Elizabeth Tashjian’s artistic vision over the course of her nearly 70-year career.

Born in 1912 in New York City, Tashjian’s artistic interest in nuts began shortly after her arrival at the National Academy of Design, where she painted both nut still-lifes and highly magnified cross-sections of nuts. After moving to Old Lyme, Connecticut, with her mother in 1950, Tashjian became active in the Lyme Art Association, where she often exhibited her work. On a whim in April 1972, Tashjian opened the Nut Museum. The museum was housed on the ground floor of her sprawling 19th-century Victorian mansion on Ferry Road. The home’s dining room served as the main exhibition gallery and featured Tashjian’s nut paintings, as well as a collection of nuts, nutcrackers and nut-related memorabilia.

Although the Nut Museum’s original mission was to highlight the beauty of nuts as depicted in Tashjian’s art, the museum’s scope soon expanded. “As creator and curator of the Nut Museum, I became aware that some people have a load considering themselves to be a nut,” said Tashjian. “So, my motives changed. I set out to remove the demerit marks from the word ‘nut’. My painting then used the power of art to make social commentary.”

In 1981, Tashjian appeared on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Her success with Carson led to scores of other talk show appearances, including interviews with David Letterman, Jay Leno, Howie Mandel, Roseanne Barr, and Howard Stern. Tashjian’s television performances generally included a rendition of one of her songs: Nuts Are Beautiful (1973) or the March of the Nuts (1978).

Under Professor Steiner’s stewardship, Connecticut College was entrusted to preserve approximately 150 paintings, 200 drawings, 20 sculptures, 100 boxes of documents and photographs, and all furniture and displays from the museum portion of the house.

A curator’s talk is scheduled at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30 in Cummings Room 308, followed by an opening reception in the galleries at 5 p.m. Gallery hours for the fall are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1–4 p.m. Galleries are not open to the public during breaks (Sept. 29­–Oct 1; Oct. 9, and Nov. 26–Dec. 1).

October 8, 2019