Art for the Ladylike: An Autobiography through Other Lives (21st Century Essays #1) (Paperback)
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In Art for the Ladylike, Whitney Otto 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?
“A fascinating and peripatetic memoir, Whitney Otto’s fearless, free-range narrative investigates parenting, class, sexuality, and worlds beyond. Startling, funny, and compassionate—reminiscent of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet—this is an invaluable guide to the life of the mind and the soul of an artist.” —Diana Abu-Jaber
“I loved this fascinating memoir of a life experienced through the understanding of art. It’s inventive, thoughtful, and deeply informed. Brava!” —Roxana Robinson
“In this inviting blend of biography and memoir, novelist Otto (How to Make an American Quilt) examines her life in terms of the women artists who influenced her.…Otto provides a fascinating tour of art through the lens of her own experience. Creatives of all sorts will enjoy [her] wide-ranging insights.” —Publishers Weekly
“It is not easy to be a woman who makes art, but reading about the lives of these female artists, one begins to feel like it is the only way to live.” –Sierra Bellows, American Scholar
“Whitney Otto merges biography and memoir to generate a poetic and contemplative account of the women artists who have influenced her. … Throughout the book, [she] further untangles the challenges at play between motherhood, domesticity and creativity. … At a time when many people’s career paths and ways of working are in flux, this book can provide solace that professional and private struggles are something all women can relate to.” –HundredHeroines.org