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West Hartford Native’s Iconic Art on Display at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven

Corsillo talks about his Grammy-nominated album cover for Every Man Has a Woman, a tribute to Yoko Ono. He smiled as he spoke of losing the Grammy to friend Janet Perr for her design of Cindy Lauper’s She’s So Unusual. Courtesy photo

George Corsillo, a West Hartford native and Northwest Catholic alum, has an exhibit of his album cover and book jacket art on display in New Haven.

George Corsillo stands at the center of his More is More show at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven. The rendering of his Lonesome Dove book jacket is in the background. Courtesy photo

Submitted by Maureen Scudder, Northwest Catholic High School

You’ve seen George Corsillo’s work. You might even have it in your house. You just don’t know it. Until now.

The 1968 graduate of Northwest Catholic and West Hartford native George Corsillo is a graphic designer, respected from coast to coast and well-known in the business, with credits ranging from the album cover of Grease, The Original Movie Soundtrack to the book jacket of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. 

Other influential works include album covers for Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, Luther Vandross, and John Mellencamp. Corsillo is also the genius behind book jackets for Brett Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, Ultra Violet’s biography of Andy Warhol, Famous for 15 Minutes, and Bob Woodward’s Wired. 

Still have a stack of CDs in your Case Logic or a box of vinyls beside your turntable or a bookshelf of best sellers? George Corsillo is in there. Go look.

On Saturday, June 13, Kehler Liddell Gallery at 873 Whalley Ave. in New Haven hosted an opening reception for George Corsillo’s More is More show as well as an artist talk with the prescient talent behind works as high-profile as the Grammy-nominated album cover Every Man Has a Woman, a tribute to Yoko Ono, to works as personal as the poster for Saranac Lake’s 2017 Winter Carnival. 

Corsillo is accustomed to creating art that tells a story and solves problems without placing himself in the spotlight. (His show, however, does include a polaroid selfie that he used as a prompt in a book jacket!) On Saturday, Corsillo stepped into the limelight that he has spent 50 years shining on others. The gentle, humble creative behind the famous, award-winning album covers, book jackets, posters, and memorabilia told his tale.

George Corsillo is as unassuming and warm as he is brilliant and prophetic. Both shy and sweet while being passionate and engaging, Corsillo knows his art and knows himself. After graduating from Northwest Catholic in 1968, an experience Corsillo reflected fondly upon, sharing memories of painting a winter wonderland on cafeteria windows, playing the lead in The Music Man and Pygmalion, and running for the NWC track team, Corsillo went on to earn a BFA at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After graduating from Pratt in 1972 he began his work in graphic design. 

In the late 70s, Corsillo and his wife, Susan McCaslin, also an artist, moved to Los Angelos, where he had the opportunity to work on album covers for Cher, Donna Summer, and KISS, among others. Two of his early pieces — Grease: The Original Movie Soundtrack and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 – are displayed in More is More, and Corsillo tells the fascinating history of their coming to fruition.

His show, on display until August 18, plays on the notion of less is more. Corsillo explained, “It’s about collage. It’s about things bumping up against each other.”

After a private walkthrough of his show with his fellow Northwest Catholic alumni Beth Boyle ’96, the school’s new Director of Alumni, and Celina Marquis ’08, Director of Fine Arts, it became clear that this imaginative retrospective is, yes, about elements colliding, but it’s also about one thing leading to another. It’s not chaos. It’s not happenstance. Corsillo’s decisions, and every blessing and bit of luck bestowed upon him, moved him from one success to the next. And frankly, it feels like an amazing straight line. 

In describing the show, Corsillo used words like “colorful” and “playful” and “gritty.” In describing his life, he said lots of “I’m really very lucky.”

When Corsillo’s first employer Warner Paper Library was going through a major transformation, the director cleaned house, keeping only one employee – George Corsillo. When asked, “Why you, George?” Corsillo humbly replied, “Aw, you know, I was just a production guy.” 

Why do we think there was more to it than that? Was it his sweetheart personality? Was it his potential? Was the director as prophetic as Corsillo turned out to be? Hard to know, mostly because Corsillo quickly turned the conversation toward his next opportunity and strike of good fortune, working for the great Paul Bacon. Corsillo said, “Bacon was a star and a wonderful mentor.”

Eventually, Corsillo became an art director himself and produced album covers for Jefferson Starship, Velvet Underground, and many more. When he returned to Connecticut and set up shop in New Haven (designmonsters.com), he brought his reputation and good nature with him. Calls started coming in and connection after connection was formed. He chuckled when he reminisced about being called “The California Kid” and spoke of his setting up shop with his wife and partner in New Haven.

Two book jackets Corsillo is especially proud of are the cover of Less Than Zero and Lonesome Dove, and no doubt, Saturday’s artist talk will include a thoughtful and personal description of their creation. 

This past Thursday, a very grateful Northwest Catholic contingent enjoyed the private walkthrough with all its stories of techniques and colors and movements and missions. Corsillo let in his enrapt fans on his processes, pointing out polaroids he took, typeface he created, models (sometimes family members and sometimes himself!), always telling tales behind why did did what he did and how he did it.

George Corsillo gave kudos to his wife and three children, all creatives, and talked about friendships and collaborations that positioned him for success and changed the trajectory of his life. 

As for his Northwest Catholic days, he chuckled, “Yea, I had acne.” Then he spoke fondly of Fr. Colton, the president at the time, and Mr. Stosuy, the beloved gym teacher. Corsillo laughed, “Sometimes I felt like the dumb kid in the smart class.” He went on, “But we all loved each other. We were happy.” 

Corsillo attended his 50th high school reunion last year and was moved and saddened by the homage to classmates who’d passed and delighted to connect with old friends.  If Northwest Catholic has its way, George Corsillo will be back long before another class reunion hits the calendar.

To learn more about George Corsillo and his show More is More, visit kehlerliddellgallery.com.

Corsillo’s More is More includes a panel discussion on July 18,  7-9 p.m. with “Team Doonesbury” – Corsillo, cartoon historian Brian Walker, editor David Stanford, moderated by sound engineer Fred Newman ($15), and a conversation with Corsillo and Gary Trudeau ($25) on July 25 7-9 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at kehlerliddellgallery.com/calendar and are expected to sell out.

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Corsillo, in front of his album covers for Grease, The Original Movie Soundtrack and Dolly Parton’s 9-5, discusses punk rock, typography, and art in the 80s. Behind him is his Newsweek cover that was jettisoned when 52 hostages were released in Iran in 1981 and became front page news. Courtesy photo

Corsillo talks about his Grammy-nominated album cover for Every Man Has a Woman, a tribute to Yoko Ono. He smiled as he spoke of losing the Grammy to friend Janet Perr for her design of Cindy Lauper’s She’s So Unusual. Courtesy photo

George Corsillo took the lead on the Saranac Lake 2017 Winter Carnival poster. Every year Gary Trudeau, in collaboration with Corsillo, creates a poster and pin for the carnival. Courtesy photo

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