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Wansoo Kim’s ‘Table Monsters’ lurk in Gallery 121

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Even nightmares can be beautiful.

For Wansoo Kim, a ceramics instructor at Austin Peay State University, those nightmares come to life as colorfully creepy creatures. But Kim’s monsters don’t hide under the bed.

His “Table Monsters” will lie in wait at Gallery 121 through Friday.

When visiting South Korea after moving to America, Kim felt called by the beauty and functionality of traditional Korean tables, which appear in each of the pieces.

“I find myself just going back to it, the tradition, the culture. I’m kind of stuck there,” he said.

His monsters hide underneath the tables. Detailed and delicate, unique in form and color, Kim used a pinch technique to bring each creature’s personality out of the earthenware. 

“I just had so much fun playing with my intuition,” said Kim.

Never following a formula when it comes to crafting these creatures, Kim allowed instinct to guide him in his ceramics work, creating a collection where no two monsters are the same.

“When thinking of the definition of monster, it really frees me up. I have so much freedom just thinking about it and the creation process.”

“Table Monster No. 3” by Wansoo Kim, exhibited in Gallery 121.

The closer the viewer inspects each piece, the more intricate its tangle of features becomes. Tongues, eyes, faces poke out from the textured surface of the clay.

One of the artist’s favorite monsters in the collection slithers from under its table, sprouting an appendage that mimics the furniture.

Another inky-dark creature wears its table like a helmet, imposing. Still others explode into oozing color and form, and one is glazed in pure white — but contains a world of unseen sculptural work on the inside.

Paul Collins, Kim’s colleague in the Austin Peay art department, spoke on how intentional the sculptor is in his work.

“I don’t believe anything he does that isn’t artistically placed,” Collins said.

“Wansoo is a master technician. Nobody asks about how these things are made — clay is really really hard to work with so for him to make these really crazy articulated forms, that is someone who is a master of their craft.”

“Table Monster” by Wansoo Kim, exhbited in Gallery 121.

Selected on a recommendation from a Belmont art faculty, the university coordinators were happy to invite Kim from nearby Clarksville.

“He’s pretty critically acclaimed in a lot of ceramics publications,” said Jackie Tingle, director of community education for Belmont’s Watkins College of Art. “He’s kind of making waves.”

Kim kept the creativity flowing at an evening art demonstration for Belmont’s community ceramics class.

Whether he’s firing up the ceramics world or filling Belmont’s Gallery 121 with the creatures that crouch in his imagination, Kim’s table monsters are sure to frighten and delight before they leave the Leu Center for the Visual Arts this weekend.

For more on Kim and his work, visit

PHOTO: Wansoo Kim at his artist talk in Gallery 121. Anna Jackson / Belmont Vision

This article was written by Anna Jackson and Emma Hilton.

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