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INTERVIEW: KISS’ Paul Stanley Rocks the Artworld

Besides the occasional body paint and stage make up, rock stars aren’t usually known for their artistic touch. But every rule has its exception and KISS lead singer Paul Stanley is just that: an exception. The rocker’s paintings often tout $70,000 price tags. If it hadn’t been for school, he may have gone the way of Picasso earlier on.

Click to see Paul Stanley’s artwork

At the famed High School of Music and Art in New York City, the rigid structure and required classes soured Stanley on becoming an artist. He joined KISS after graduation, turned into a rock icon, and didn’t pick up a paintbrush again for more than three decades.

Around 2001, while Stanley was going through a divorce, he decided to pick up some canvases and paint. “It was very cathartic,” he says, “and a way to get in touch with myself.” He never planned to share his art with the world, but after hanging his painting Green Planet in his home, friends took notice and pushed him to contact a gallery. Stanley finally agreed.

He held his first show just three years ago. Serious art collectors have responded to his abstract style and vivid use of color, and band mate Gene Simmons has even hung his painting Statue of Liberty in his house. But Stanley hasn’t turned into an art snob. “I’ve never, ever aspired to critical acclaim,” he says. “I’m the first person to say: If you don’t like my art, go home and do your own. I’m a cheerleader for the common man.”

Despite his newfound talents, Stanley is also still a devoted member of KISS. The band is currently in the studio recording their first album in a decade. (Stanley is producing.) He says the album is a “throwback” and that fans can expect “straight up, classic KISS” when the album hits stores next fall. The band will also hit the road for their South American tour next month. And after years of backstage antics and partying, these days, they’re more likely to be found reading and listening to music on their tour jet.

That’s not to say that Stanley doesn’t have fond memories of the wilder times. He remembers the day KISS left for their first tour. The band was so young that most of the guys still lived at home. “Our parents dropped us off at the airport,” he laughs. “They may as well have been dropping us off at a whorehouse.” Sure, the same on-the-road temptations are still around, but Stanley, who re-married in 2005 and is a father of three, just isn’t interested. “I liken it to a buffet,” he jokes. “Everything is all laid out in front of you. It’s just a question of whether you’re hungry.”

Stanley also promises their new tour will even blow past KISS concerts out of the water. “The show has reached mammoth proportions,” he promises. “There’s nothing resembling subtlety. And if there was, we’d throw it out.” (Photo: WENN)

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