Scott James Gundersen was traveling through Africa with his wife nearly 10 years ago when he noticed something about the handmade items he’d see.
“When we’d go to the markets and villages, so many of the products were made of reused things or of local materials that in America we might have thrown away,” he said. “I thought, how I can infuse that idea in my art?”
Soon, he figured out a way.
Gundersen, 37, a Michigan-based artist and art teacher, has become known around the world for his murals made from wine corks.
He’s in the Tri-Cities this weekend finishing up a 5 1/2 -by-7 1/2 -foot piece featuring Washington wine pioneer Chas Nagel.
Nagel was Washington State University’s first enology professor.
The mural will be donated to the university and displayed at the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center on its campus in Richland.
Gundersen will be working on it today and Sept. 17 as part of an event called Art Uncorked!, celebrating Washington wine and Tri-City area arts. The sponsor is Gesa Credit Union.
To catch Gundersen’s mural making, head to the Market at the Parkway in Richland from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, or to the Southridge Sports and Events Complex this evening for Sunset at Southridge. That event is from 6 to 8 p.m.
Gundersen also will be at the Gesa Carousel of Dreams and the Southridge Sports and Events Complex from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Sept. 17. Food will be available for purchase, and a wine garden will be open noon to 3 p.m. Children will be able to help Gundersen as he completes the mural.
Gundersen has made about 30 wine cork murals in all. His first, in 2009, was a small portrait of his wife, Jeanne.
Others range from a portrait of the king and queen of Spain, which is on display in Madrid, to a large portrait of Courtney Cox that helped promote her sitcom Cougar Town.
Gundersen said the Tri-Cities mural is unique.
The corks used — about 10,000 of them — are largely from Tri-City area wineries.
“This is the first time that any of my portraits have been so locally grounded. It’s special and it’s unique in that sense,” he said. “Even though I’ve done things all over the world, I’ve never done something quite like this.”