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Stanley to art world: Kiss this

Paul Stanley and his artwork.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Stanley and his artwork. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
John Rogers Associated Press

When it comes to glam rock stars, Paul Stanley always could wield that makeup brush with the best of them.

So maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the Kiss guitarist, first introduced to the world with his face covered in white makeup, his lips painted bright red, a dark star over his right eye, would someday set aside that guitar long enough to pour his soul into oil on canvas.

Still, Stanley says he was the most surprised guy on the planet when he, an art-class washout, suddenly began to make the transition from guitar god to serious painter eight years ago.

“I managed to fail art, which is, you know, astonishing,” he says with a sly smile as he sits in an oversized easy chair in his home studio.

How he managed to do so seems surprising when one casts a glance around Stanley’s studio, which sits just behind his house atop a brush-covered, mansion-dotted hillside overlooking Los Angeles. There, basking in the bright light that streams in from the windows are a dozen or more high-resolution scans of some of his original works.

Large in scale and filled with bright color, they range from the abstract to the surreal to the figurative. Some of them, such as “God of Thunder,” are named for Kiss songs.

Then there’s “Liberty,” a huge, abstract representation of the Statue of Liberty. His Kiss bandmate and longtime friend Gene Simmons, who owns the original, says he was captivated when he saw it and asked to put it in his home.

“It captures the grandeur and beauty that is America,” Simmons said.

The originals fetch as much as $70,000, a figure the artist confirms with both a touch of pride and a bit of embarrassment. He considers it proof that serious collectors have accepted his work, yet he acknowledges he doesn’t need the money and, in any case, never set out to sell the art he created.

He was approaching 50 and going through a divorce when he found himself searching for another emotional outlet outside of music.

“A friend of mine who knew me well said, ‘You should paint,’ ” he recalls. “Having no idea what I was going to do, having no training, I went to a store, bought canvases, paints, pallet knives, brushes, went home and just started.”

Still, he never planned to sell anything until he mentioned in passing to Michael O’Mahoney, president of the Wentworth Gallery, that he painted. O’Mahoney asked to take a look and was impressed. He’s since mounted about two dozen Stanley shows around the country.

The artist’s work hopscotches from style to style, influenced, he says, by everyone from Picasso to Michelangelo to Warhol to numerous other painters he admires.

But that doesn’t mean, O’Mahoney says, that the result doesn’t reflect a unique vision.

“To convey warmth, anger, sadness, happiness onto a piece of canvas, there’s no precise formula for doing that,” he says. “Either you’ve got it or you don’t have it. He’s got it.”

The birthday bunch

Singer Nick Lowe is 60. Comedian Louie Anderson is 56. Actor Robert Carradine is 55. Actress Donna Pescow is 55. Actress Kelly LeBrock is 49. TV personality Star Jones is 47. Actress Lara Flynn Boyle is 39. Actress Alyson Hannigan is 35. Actress Keisha Castle-Hughes is 19.

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