We are so thrilled to be (virtually) hosting Portland author Whitney Otto with her new book Art for the Ladylike, published by Mad Creek Books. In this inviting blend of biography and memoir, Otto examines her life in terms of the women artists who influenced her, asking, “Is there any social effect when a woman is explicit in her observing?” She limns the lives of eight pioneering women photographers—Sally Mann, Imogen Cunningham, Judy Dater, Ruth Orkin, Tina Modotti, Lee Miller, Madame Yvonne, and Grete Stern— to in turn excavate her own writer’s life. The result is an affecting exploration of what it means to be a woman, what it means to be an artist, and the perils and rewards of being both at once. In considering how feminism, career, and motherhood were entangled throughout her subjects’ lives as they tirelessly sought to render their visions and paved the way for others creating within the bounds of domesticity, Otto assesses her own struggles with balancing writing and the pulls of home life. Ultimately, she ponders the persistent question that artistic women face in a world that devalues women’s ambition: If what we love is what we are, how do those of us with multiple loves forge lives with room for everything?
Whitney Otto is the author of five novels: How To Make an American Quilt, which was a New York Times bestseller and a NY Times Notable Book; nominated for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award, and adapted into a feature film produced by Steven Spielberg: Now You See Her, which was nominated for an Oregon Book Award and optioned for film; The Passion Dream Book, which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, optioned for a film, and an Oregonian Book Club selection; A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity, which was a Multnomah County Library selection; and her most recent novel, Eight Girls Taking Pictures. Otto's work has also appeared in anthologies, magazines, and the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco