Date on Honors Thesis

Spring 5-7-2021


Studio Art with Enhanced Art History


Organizational Communication

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Antje Gamble, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Zbynek Smetana, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Christine Lindner, Committee Member


In 1978, Edward Said published Orientalism, a seminal book that shed light on one of the “leftovers” of European colonialism. In it, he describes the West’s attempts to exotify and romanticize the non-Western world. While the Near East, the Far East, and East/Southeast Asia are geographic terms that correspond to specific countries and cultures, the “Orient” is a Euro-American fantasy that only exists to contradict the West. The term is intentionally vague in order to satisfy any and all exotic desires that a consumer may have.

A great deal of European and American artists found inspiration in the exotic during the late 19th century. The artworks they created, however, rarely celebrate or appreciate non-Western culture. They emphasize “otherness,” and turn dynamic societies into mere playgrounds for their own artistic expression. The beginning of the 20th century saw a rise in artistic Primitivism, or the influence of so-called “savage” cultures on modern art. Both of these movements represent a justification for ethnocentrism.

Since the publication of Said’s book, art historians, anthropologists, and historians have been taking an inquisitive look at how (and why) cultures outside of Europe and America have been generalized and exoticized. In response, many artists, curators, designers, and art collectors have asked themselves if they are representing non-European cultures as a mysterious “other”, or as diverse histories hosting a myriad of different cultures, languages, and histories.

In my paper, I will be evaluating the scope of Orientalism in the 19th century and Primitivism in the 20th century. I will also discuss the value of authenticity and what causes “the West” to crave exotic art.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.