By Catherine Graffam on July 30, 2018

Do you know what cement is made of? Or how about all of the bits and pieces inside of your smartphone?

Woomin Kim, a Cambridge-based sculptor and one of Gallery 263’s summer residents was struck by the lack of answers she had to these type of questions upon visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s rock & mineral collection.

Woomin Kim with her photographic reference from the Harvard Museum

Through her many visits since she found that so many of the featured specimens are the building blocks to urban life, and that the connection between the raw material in the glass cases and their uses in our everyday life had been lost. Most of us probably don’t know what cement really is (mostly limestone and other minerals), but entrust that it will hold the buildings and bridges that we use. A potentially panic-inducing thought.

Kim has since combined research and sculptor’s ingenuity in her current project and reverse engineers the lost connection by using domestic objects to recreate the appearance of rocks and minerals found at Harvard’s museum. She’s found inventive ways of achieving this; like using reflective star-shaped stickers to mimic the sheen of fragmented opal. The recognizable but imaginative substances that build the illusion in Kim’s pieces help the viewer build a relationship with the rocks by connecting with materials they already know.

One thread between the couple dozen works Kim has created in the past few weeks during the residency is that they all include embroidery, something which was completely alien to Kim before beginning this project. She says the soft, delicate nature of embroidery aids in accentuating the contrast between her pieces and the real thing.

Manipulating material is part of the fabric of Kim’s being. She recounts as a child she carved and dug holes through her desks, lit things on fire and felt that she learned most from handling objects. Natural curiosity and a hands-on approach is the driving force for her work that explores the elements that holds our twenty-first-century lives together.

It might be time to head over to the Harvard Museum, and then of course to Gallery 263 to see Woomin Kim’s creations.

You can find more of her work at


Putnam & Pearl is Gallery 263’s new journal covering events, exhibition reviews, and artist profiles both here at the gallery and wherever cool stuff is happening in the Greater Boston Area.

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