The Work Podcast - Paul Stanley, Dree Hemingway, Ryan Wilson on Isaac Hayes (S06E05)

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Rock legend Paul Stanley of KISS talks with Michael about his second career as a painter; Dree Hemingway talks about her new Emma Roberts film In a Relationship; and Ryan Wilson discusses Craft Recordings' remastered versions of three classic Isaac Hayes albums.

Paul Stanley - yes, that Paul Stanley, the rock and roll legend, of KISS fame - is, in case you haven’t heard, a painter. Yes, a painter. And one of considerable skill and growing renown.

He began seventeen years ago, he told me recently. “I was going through a divorce,” he remembers, “and when anyone goes through that kind of turmoil, you have a choice between smashing things through the wall or trying to find another way to have some kind of cathartic experience.”

A friend suggested that he try painting in lieu of destruction.

“I went down and bought some paints,” he says, “without any clue as to what I was going to do. The first thing I did was a self-portrait, and interestingly enough everyone knew it was me. So I figured I was off to a good start. It would be terrible to do a self-portrait and have everyone go, ‘Who is that?’ Or ‘What is that?’”

Even at that point, though, the rocker didn’t envision a future of gallery shows and meetings with collectors. “I never painted with any idea of anyone seeing any of the work,” he says. “I think that was a good thing, because I’ve always found in my life, whether it’s music or any other pursuit, that the key to it working out is me trying to please myself. When you try to second-guess the public, you can wind up kicking yourself for not doing things that you wanted to do. I think we innately know what we want, and I think that when you please yourself you please other people.”

“I started hanging a few pieces in my house,” he continues, “just for my own enjoyment. And people would ask me who did them - at that point I wasn’t signing my work because I was very self-conscious.” Eventually, a friend suggested he show some of his work in public. But Stanley still wasn’t convinced - “Honestly, I was somewhere between intimidated and puzzled by the idea,” he laughs.

But show the work he did, and his acclaim has grown ever since. He now regularly does gallery shows. In fact, he’s currently in the midst of a series of them across America. His paintings have been acquired by some of the top collectors in the world. And some of the most famous - the vividly hued portrait of Robert Johnson that hangs in Stanley’s own entrance hall also hangs in the entrance hall of one Jimmy Page. “For me, painting is an affirmation of life,” Stanley shrugs. “I use vibrant colors because I see life as vibrant.”

Stanley credits his parents’ influence as setting the tone for his lifelong appreciation of art, and his eventual entry into that world himself. “My mother was born in Germany,” he says, “and my dad is first generation from Poland. And in Europe, the arts are so much a part of life, whether it’s theater, or fine art, or whatever. So I grew up in a household where going to see theater or opera or going to see art was just natural. So I was certainly inspired by seeing someone like Picasso, who found art in fish bones, in everything. Or even in the last thirty years, to see someone like Basquiat.”

But Stanley is equally inspired by those that follow their own muse, even without the acclaim of those two great masters. “I just think that to create art,” he says, “to make something tangible out of something intangible, is just amazing. And I encourage everyone to do it.” He’s become somewhat of an evangelist for the power of art in everyone’s lives. “You know, we limit ourselves,” he continues, “and we tend to close ourselves from possibilities. There are enough people around us that are going to try to limit us. Don’t do it to yourself.”

Some might consider it an unlikely career development, but speaking with Stanley, the whole thing feels completely logical. He’s quite an inspiring figure, and readers would be well served to come out, see some of his art, meet a legend, and perhaps be inspired to take up a brush themselves.

For Atlanta area readers, Paul Stanley will be making a very special appearance at Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza, Atlanta on Saturday, June 16, 2018 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. RSVP’s are highly suggested at phipps@wentworthgallery.com or by calling 404-233-0903. Visit www.wentworthgallery.com for more info.

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