I was scrolling through Instagram to see what my friends were up to when my thumb immediately stopped on a photo of a giant coco de mer nut. Lola Pierson ’20 posted the image of the nut which was part of “Revisiting the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian,” an art exhibit she was helping to construct. I didn't know much about this museum until a couple of days later when I walked into Shain Library and saw a poster that said the exhibit was going to be open to the public in the Cummings Arts Center. I texted my friends to tell them that we HAD to go. The week that it opened, I headed over to Cummings with my friend to see the museum. The first floor of Cummings is a rotating exhibit space curated by the art and art history departments. Sometimes the featured artist is a faculty member, outside artist or a student. It may shock you, but Connecticut College is actually not the birthplace of the Nut Museum. The original museum was created by artist Elizabeth Tashjian (1912 - 2007) who transformed the first floor of her mansion in Old Lyme, Connecticut, into an amazing eclectic ode to nuts. In 2002, Professor of Art History Chris Steiner saved Tashjian’s art/collection, which was then archived at the College. Now the museum has been brought back to life at Conn.
While walking through the gallery I was exuding happiness. It instantly became my favorite art exhibit I have ever seen. You cannot help but feel youthful while walking past paintings, recreations and models of nuts. The volume of nut content available had me thinking about the beauty in seemingly ordinary things, like legumes, and how sometimes this beauty is overlooked when we do not take the time to appreciate it. The gallery takes up the main space of Cummings and is filled with paintings, sculptures and video installments of late-night television interviews with Tashjian. In a side room off of the main gallery space there is a detailed replica of the main room of the Nut Museum, with the original coco de mer nut used in some of Tashjian’s work, a life-size sculpture of the artist herself and an audio recording of her singing a song about nuts.
I was able to attend the opening reception for the gallery which included catered food and beverages. Fifteen students from the art history and art departments who helped curate the exhibit were available as guides. Three of these students, Anabel Pichardo ’20, Ismael Mora ’21, and Emma Walsh ’20, took me on a tour. All of the student gallery assistants were wearing pins that said “Ask Me About the Nut Museum.” My guides provided a history of Tashjian, including information about her classical training and background on the inspiration of specific pieces. They also informed me that the recreation and dedication to the museum would not have been made possible without Professor of Art History Christopher Steiner, who’s hard work and student advising made the exhibit the incredible quirky thing it is today.
The exhibit will be in Cummings Arts Center until early December and I strongly suggest that everyone in the New London area visit and enjoy themselves as much as I have!