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Vibrant Harmony

Namhi Kim Wagner - Memorial Retrospective Ceramics Exhibition

Jun 17 - Jul 1, 2023 | Reception Sat Jun 17 3-5pm

Korean Cultural Society of Boston is pleased to present Namhi Kim Wagner’s Retrospective Exhibition in memory of her passing at the age of 99 in March 2023. The exhibition will feature delicate plates with vibrant stamped patterns, swelling jars encircled with floral carving, and large bowls overflowing with big happy fish and lotuses.

Born in Korea, raised in Japan, and returning to Korea after her first marriage, Namhi lived through both World War II and the Korean War. Widowed at age 35 with three young children, she emigrated to the United States to work at the Harvard Yenching Library, later becoming the first Director of the Korean Language Program at Harvard. 

At age 48, she found her deep passion for ceramics. First studying briefly at the MIT Pottery Studio and then joining the Harvard Ceramics Program Studio (formerly Radcliffe), she was an artist-in-residence there from 1997-2004. Often teaching all day and staying up all night to master ceramic techniques, it was in rediscovering her own roots that led her to truly find her own voice. Here, her resilient spirit found expression in her modern interpretation of the dynamic yet playful style of 15-16th century Korean Buncheong ware. 

I discovered my own voice as well as my roots by exploring the expressive possibilities of the Korean Buncheong tradition in my pots. Buncheong could not be more Korean, down-to-earth, unpretentious, and exuberant. It is the unfettered spontaneity and rhythmic grace of Bungheong ware that I love most. Stamps are impressed randomly all over the surface and lines are incised freely. The patterns appear to be disorganized and yet they coalesce into a vibrant harmony. It warms my heart and makes me smile to look at some pieces that appear to be have been made by a child, so innocent charming and natural - Namhi Kim Wagner

Always an educator, Namhi was also instrumental in sharing the rich history of Korean ceramics with the greater Boston community through her own entertaining presentations at major museums and studios and by acting as a translator for visiting artists. Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Europe, and Korea and is in the collections of the Harvard Museums and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

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