Following a European tour with his seminal arena rock band KISS, front man Paul Stanley is coming to the area on a different kind of tour. The venue for his upcoming show: the Wentworth Gallery at Tysons Galleria, where Stanley will appear with a collection of his acrylic paintings on Saturday, Oct. 11, 12 noon-3 p.m.
Like his band, Stanley’s largely abstract art is big and bold, with bright colors on large canvases. "I love art that’s vibrant and has a lot of color," Stanley said. "I think life is vibrant. On its worst day, life’s always a miracle." This is why, no matter his mood, his palette is never somber, he said. "In a warped way, depression is as vibrant as anything else."
Stanley said he was interested in art from a young age, and he graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. "I was originally, according to a lot of people, a young talented artist," he said. However, he added, "I found I wasn’t fond of people telling me what to do or how to do it." So he found an outlet for his artistic knack in the creation of a rock band that is as famous for its visual impact as its music.
STANLEY’S HAND was behind the makeup and costumes that helped make KISS world-famous, as well as some of its set designs, album covers and apparel. "I always had a very clear vision for the band and what I wanted it to be," he said. He created the KISS logo sitting at a table in his parents’ house while he lived there. "That’s why the two S’s are not completely parallel," he said, adding that when the band’s design team offered to straighten them, he declined.
He didn’t start painting again until about eight years ago, when he was going through a divorce and a friend suggested he resume the hobby. "It became a very interesting way of confronting a lot of things that were going on, and it turned out to be a journey I’m still on," he said. Stanley said he’d had no intention of showing his art, but when he hung one of his paintings in his house, visitors wanted to know whose work it was.
So he did a few small shows about four years ago. He has now done 18 shows in the last year and a half, "and it’s been successful beyond anything I could have imagined," he said. "If money is a measure of success, I’m told my art generated $2 million last year, so I guess it’s not too bad." He said he appreciated the commercial success because it meant people connected with his work. "The idea that I might be a starving artist — that wasn’t going to happen."
THE SIMILARITY between his approaches to music and art is that he sets about both "with the idea of no boundaries and pleasing myself," he said. "I think that when you approach something to please yourself, you can’t go wrong. Even if no one else likes it, you’ve got one big fan."
He listed Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Vincent Van Gogh as some of the artists who had influenced his work, adding, "Loads of people have been influences on my art. I think anything you’re exposed to will turn up in your art one way or another."
The art is not a side project to his work with KISS, he said. "I think I give 100 percent to everything I do. I don’t bring paint brushes onstage, and I don’t bring guitars into my studio."
Whatever the art form, Stanley said he was grateful that he had been able to do what he loved and that his work had resonated with others. "I’m on a journey I’m enjoying immensely."