The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

Devotions in Dibden

Abigail+Synnestvedt
Jo Cutler
Abigail Synnestvedt

On Nov. 15, Abigail Synnestvedt, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student at VTSU-Johnson, presented her paintings at the Julian Scott Gallery. Her collection, titled “Devotions,” included 20 five-by-seven paintings commemorating her husband, Robin, who recently passed away.  

According to Synnestvedt and her mother, Synnestvedt has been an artist her whole life, but she became passionate about painting in high school. During her time in the MFA program, she experimented with many different art mediums but found that oil painting was her favorite.  

During her artist talk, Synnestvedt expressed the challenges she faced while in the MFA program. She began the program in 2020. While getting her MFA, she also worked as a full-time art teacher. Additionally, during her time in the MFA program, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. These challenges are what inspired the different elements of the collection.  

According to Synnestvedt, she made larger paintings at the beginning of the MFA program.  

Said Synnestvedt, “I had been working on larger scale pieces, and I was doing more sustained pieces; I would go in and I would make a piece over a period of multiple sessions.”  

However, because of her life circumstances, doing sustained pieces became impossible.  

“It was hard to sustain that kind of energy and intention with a piece over a long period of time.”  

To make painting more manageable for herself, Synnestvedt started painting on a smaller scale. This helped her get more paintings done and feel more accomplished. All the paintings in her collection were flashing paintings, which are paintings made on thin sheets of metal typically used on roofing.  

“These flashing paintings forced me to make a single painting in a single session, in which some people call a one-shot painting, and I found it to be incredibly satisfying and it also fit the time constraints of the program.” 

While creating this collection, Synnestvedt took inspiration from other paintings she made during her time in the MFA program.  

“Before I made this body of work, I would typically make still lives on these flashings,” She’d said during her artist talk, “I would make them from objects that I found in my home or around work, or I would go out on a walk and I would find something out of nature that I then brought back into the studio, and arranged in a composition and painted.”  

She wanted to do something similar for this collection, but she wanted to paint objects significant to her husband. One of her paintings features a cobalt blue background, meant to represent the color of the shirt her husband wore at their wedding.   

While each painting is different, the collection has some recurring symbols. In many of the paintings, there is a weighted gecko. When asked what the significance of it was, she said that it was always on her husband’s computer. Another recurring object in the collection is butterfly wings. The collection has a clear color palette of white, grey, cobalt blue, yellow, and orange.  

Although making this collection was challenging for Synnestvedt, she says it has been a way for her to work through her grief and heal.  

“It was really hard to make them for sure, but anything would be hard, so at least I was doing something that felt a little bit like meditation.” 

If you are interested in checking out Devotions, you can stop by the Julian Scott Gallery in Dibden. It will be hosted in the space until Dec. 15.  

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About the Contributor
Jo Cutler, Staff Writer
Jo Cutler (she/they) is a junior at Vermont State University-Johnson, majoring in Secondary Education with a concentration in English. During their free time Jo enjoys dancing, swimming, skiing, hanging out with friends and family, and listening to music. They are currently a part of two different dance groups. They are co-caption of the Johnson Dance Club and a part of Ghostlight Dance Ensemble. They currently live in Morrisville, Vermont.