The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Jamie James
Jan. 31, 2017
Maybe Lord Byron was the pioneer among artists who left for fabled lands distant from home in space and culture. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, trains and steamships facilitated adventurous spirits in an age before McDonald’s or Starbucks were certain to await them at journey’s end. In his bright and thoroughly enjoyable book, Jamie James explores the lives of Gauguin, Maya Deren and a handful of less-remembered “exotes” who traded the civilization they knew for strange horizons. Those swapping west for east were searching for places more real, more rooted to primal forces. James also devotes a chapter to Raden Saleh, a Javanese painter sojourning in 19th-century Europe who lived uncomfortably between worlds. James rues the “cultural homogenization that has accompanied the global economy and information technology.” Now that the world has turned into one big shopping mall, why leave home?