Elizabeth Johnson, guest curator

Passing Bittersweet featured work that embodies ideas garnered from reading Lafayette alumnus Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights. His chatty, humorous, open-ended essays were culled from a year of daily asking himself: “What delights me?” Self-study and identity merge with the places, people, books, and routines that make Ross Gay happy. From inside what he calls “intense fleeting attentions,” Gay maintains a practice of acknowledging what is beautiful in the midst of the brutal.

The artists of Passing Bittersweet were chosen not because they illustrate Gay’s delights or process, but because their personal delights find aesthetic, physical ways to reframe negativity. The gathered artworks echo Gay’s conviction that numberless, small, positive human actions and transactions dispel what is dark, lonely, and unjust. Passing Bittersweet honors Ross Gay, The Book of Delights, and artists who validate vulnerable, peripheral, and oft-overlooked treasures of common experience.

Passing Bittersweet was on view in the Williams Center Gallery January 9–February 9, 2020. Explore the links below to see some of the work and learn about the artists. All descriptions of artists’ works were written by Elizabeth Johnson with the following exceptions: Fritz Van Orden and Scott Sherk by Matthew Crain; Taller Workshop/Nestor Gil text provided by the artist.

Artwork courtesy of the artists. For a complete list of works in the exhibition, tap here. To view selected works and read about the artists, explore the exhibition by tapping below.