Artistry: Multimedia artist
Over the drawbridge that connects the house to the workshop—and raises with a simple pull to allow large stained-glass pieces to be moved from the backyard to the front for loading—artist Samuel Corso steps into the downtown studio he renovated from the bones of a 19th-century cypress bungalow, and he grabs two small rectangles of glass.
One, he promises, is yellow, the other red.
“See, though,” Corso says looking at the material in his palm. “They both look black without any light.”
For Corso, that light has been his fervent energy for learning any medium or style he can get his hands on over the sidewinding course of his more than four decades as a mixed-media artist, craftsman and LSU instructor.
Mentored by Paul Dufour, the legendary late LSU professor who studied under master painters Josef Albers and Willem de Kooning at Yale, Corso partnered with Dufour in the 1970s to form Dufour/Corso Studios for fabricating glass, bronze sculpture and furniture.
“I was creatively greedy,” Corso says. “I was a sponge. I wanted it all.”
As he looks at one of Dufour’s sumi-e Japanese paintings, Corso picks up a samba brush and mimics the motion of ink and water curving down paper like the Mighty Mississippi. Getting a new tool in his hands feels like Christmas morning, he says.
Stacked with fresh canvas paintings, Corso’s first since the early 1980s, the front room of his studio is a rich mosaic of landscapes destined for Baton Rouge Gallery this fall and inspired by his first trip to Avery Island.
“I grew up in Louisiana and had never been, so that inspired me,” Corso says. “I always need an element of newness.”
Whether for churches, universities or private collections, much of Corso’s work is done on commission. Working with clients can be a delicate balance of creative freedom and delivering what the buyer wants and the site demands. To navigate that dialogue, Corso leans on his studies and expertise.
“You have to be strong enough and confident enough to educate the client on what they should do,” Corso says. “Most of the time they will respond to that.”
While social media encourages artists to homogenize their creative output, Corso warns that building an instantly recognizable brand can limit exploration.
Even at 66, Corso is always exploring. When he completes his Avery Island canvas series this summer, he could return to glass or bronze or mosaic or paper with a new perspective gleaned from the surreal tones and flowing flora of his latest work.
“You have to commit to your concept and just complete your idea before you move on to something else,” Corso says. “And I think you should move on something else. It’s creatively healthy.”