A Hollins University sophomore has been invited to present at one of the foremost events for students interested in art history and related fields.
Katelynn Budzyn ’25 will lead a session on “Mary Cassatt’s Impressionistic Impact on Scientific Motherhood and Innovation” at the Fifth Annual SUNY New Paltz Undergraduate Art History Symposium, April 13 – 16. According to the symposium’s website, the multi-day virtual event features “the work of a hundred talented students from institutions across the globe. We look forward to developing it further into a premier outlet for undergraduates…to share their research, broaden their intellectual horizons, and network with one another.” The symposium’s mission statement proclaims, “We seek to provide an inviting, nurturing and inclusive space for undergraduates to give their first professional talks as well as to increase student self-confidence.”
Budzyn will focus on how Cassatt (1844-1926), an Impressionist painter who was born in Pennsylvania but later emigrated to France, “used collective maternal nostalgia and grief resulting from the creation of formula and the subsequent debate on bottle-feeding versus breast-feeding as a vessel to cultivate an audience for her artwork in the United States during the second Industrial Revolution.”
In her presentation, Budzyn will first look briefly at “external factors that impacted and accentuated longing for the past including mortality rates for infants and children during the late 1800s as well as child labor. I then discuss the idea of Scientific Motherhood, a concept that was introduced in the late 18th century and promoted the idea that mothers needed to follow expert medical and scientific advice to rear healthy, successful children.”
By blending scenes of breastfeeding with loving interactions between mother and child, Budzyn asserts that “Cassatt successfully used these mothers’ collective rejection of innovation to her advantage. I also explore the comparison between the Impressionist process of painting and how children are raised.”
Budzyn says innovative methods were a hallmark of Cassatt’s paintings. “She found her way around a painting by using large and multiple brushstrokes. Even if a brushstroke was a ‘mistake’ it could be used in its own original way to contribute to the piece. Through a non-traditional role, Cassatt impacted the Impressionist art movement, influenced mothers, and pushed boundaries – therefore breaking standards and cultivating her own unique position and career.”
Launched in the fall of 2018, this year’s Undergraduate Art History Symposium “has exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Professor Keely Heuer, chair of the Department of Art History at SUNY New Paltz. “The response to this year’s call for abstracts was astounding, and the leaders of the Art History Association who selected this year’s papers had quite the challenge.”