It’s not hyperbole to call Paul Stanley a rock god.
As the spandex-clad, star-eyed yowler-in-chief for Kiss since the mid-‘70s, there’s a certain image that follows the New York native, who has fronted one of the most successful rock groups in modern music history.
One might expect him to spend his time off from the band that told us to “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Shout It Out Loud” tinkering with a pricey guitar collection or tending to a flock of vintage cars.
But five days a week, Stanley leaves his Los Angeles home, drops his kids off at school and drives 15 minutes to his art studio, where he works from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Some days, he also squeezes in a barre class with 40 neighborhood women, but that’s a story for another day.
“This is where I work,” Stanley said on a recent afternoon, calling from his artistic enclave. “It’s comfy, it’s messy, but I have people to help keep me organized.”
With Kiss touring less frequently, Stanley, 66, has turned his creative energy to painting, something he dabbled in at school but didn’t embrace as more than a hobby until a decade and a half ago.
Lately, Stanley has embarked on a different kind of road trip, visiting art galleries around the country to display and discuss his work. He’ll share his interests with Atlantans on June 16 with an appearance at Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza.
During his chat with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Kaedy Kiely of 97.1 The River (go to m.971theriver.com to hear some of the interview), Stanley talked about his love of color, his desire for Kiss fans to see his work and why he doesn’t believe in bucket lists.
Q: With all of your success in music, what made you decide to return to art, and why was it the right time when you did?
A: I went to art school in New York and I had the distinction of failing art. I wanted nothing to do with regimented classes. I didn’t really do much art — I did a lot of sketching, but I never really painted. About 17 years ago, I was getting divorced and that’s a perfect time to throw your china against the wall and that’s OK, but you have to clean it up! A friend said, “You should paint,” so I went out and bought an easel and canvases and it started off as something cathartic, almost stream of consciousness. I enjoyed it so much and it gave way to a couple of pieces that I really liked and put up in my house. Invariably people came over and said, “Who painted those?” and someone suggested that I sell my art. I had ambivalence about it; I never painted with the idea of anyone seeing it. I reluctantly showed some of my work and it sold, so — I’m smiling as I’m saying this — I was pleasantly surprised and just kept going. And at this point, it’s taken on an amazing life of its own.
Q: You recently tweeted a photo of your “almost-finished” Jimi Hendrix painting. What did he mean to you as a musician?
A: He’s always been a pivotal figure for me. I was blessed, I grew up in a time that on any given weekend, you could go to the Fillmore in New York and see Hendrix, the Who, the Allman Brothers for 3, 4, 5 dollars. I saw Hendrix twice and it really was a game-changer. This was someone who arguably set a bar that has yet to be reached. Certainly it’s emulated all the time. He wasn’t black, he wasn’t white … he was just Hendrix.
Q: Have you found when you make these art gallery appearances that you’re getting true art fans, or are you getting people who just want to say hello to Paul Stanley of Kiss?
A: Both. It would be ridiculous of me to say that everyone who comes is an art lover or aficionado. There are certainly Kiss fans there, and I’m thrilled for a couple of reasons. Art is something we should all embrace, and too many of us have been intimidated that you need to know something about art or must have an educated opinion or you don’t belong in a gallery. But you don’t need someone to tell you what is good art. Your opinion is validated because it’s yours. I encourage those fans who have never been in the gallery to come. There is a large segment of collectors who might not necessarily like my band or know much about it. It’s not an exclusive Kiss fan event, but of course, they come and my success with the band gets my foot in the door. But you can slam the door on my foot!
Practically speaking, there’s no way to meet everyone in the gallery, so I make a point of coming out to say a mass hello to everybody, and if someone wants to spend more time, they’re welcome to acquire a piece of art. I make it clear that this isn’t an autograph session for memorabilia, and I think at this point, people seem to understand that. I think we had 700 people show up at the last one. And we virtually sold everything.
Q: You do sculptures as well as paintings. What is your vision when you’re creating both of them? What type of look are you going for?
A: I do (create both), but I really focus on painting on different surfaces. I’m doing a lot of pieces on 2-inch-thick acrylic Plexiglas. They have a 3D aspect to them that canvas doesn’t. I’ve done guitars and portraits and stars; it’s a very fascinating way to work. Adding an angle or two to the work creates a whole new composition. At this point, it’s wherever I want to go, and invariably it winds up being depicted with a lot of vibrant color. I do believe you can see somebody’s state of mind in their work. Regardless of if it’s Hendrix or a vase of flowers, or a Plexiglas guitar, it’s very clear that it’s my work. I feel like life is this ongoing adventure. People talk about bucket lists — I say kick the bucket list! Everything you complete should lead you to a new challenge. I’ll never finish a bucket list.
Q: Even with art as your focus right now, what’s going on with Kiss?
A: We will be headlining festivals (overseas) in July, and in late October, we always have the “Kiss Kruise,” which is already sold out. We’ll certainly tour in the not-too-distant future. Sometimes people are amazed when I say that, but that’s what we do. But in the meantime, there’s many ways to fill a day.
ART GALLERY PREVIEW
Paul Stanley of Kiss
5-8 p.m. June 16. Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza, 3500 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. RSVPs are recommended at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 404-233-0903.