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KISS frontman Gene Simmons explains why he kept his artwork low-key all these years

Find Simmons' work at Animazing Gallery Oct. 22-23
Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss
Posted at 2:03 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 19:45:02-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Gene Simmons is about to do something in Las Vegas that he’s never done before anywhere in the world — invite people to view his artwork.

"Believe it or not, I paint," he said, not at all talking about face paint or stage makeup.

While the frontman of KISS has been putting on wild shows and sharing his artistic ability through rock 'n' roll for decades, he's also been low-key creating visual art outside of the spotlight, too.

KISS 1977
Gene Simmons, bass guitarist for Kiss, gets ready to breathe fire during the crescendo of "Firehouse," a number performed during a concert in Hartford, Conn., Feb. 18, 1977. Make-up, smoke bombs, flash pots and flying sparks are a regular part of their show. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

'I didn't think anybody cared'

Simmons has been drawing since he was just 8 years old.

“I have hundreds and hundreds of what I call doodles," he explained. "So it’s a combination of pen and ink, sharpies, paint, watercolors, graffiti spray cans—anything I can get my hands on.”

His first-ever public art showing, Gene Simmons ArtWorks, is on Oct. 22 and 23 inside Animazing Gallery at the Venetian hotel-casino.

The gallery show was originally scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16 following a private VIP event on Oct. 14. In early September it was announced that Simmons and bandmate Paul Stanley both tested positive for COVID-19, postponing several dates on the band's "End of the Road" tour.

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Simmons has since recovered, the KISS tour is back in action and he's finally ready to share his art with the world at the gallery show just ahead of KISS' new Las Vegas residency. Ironically, while the coronavirus may have temporarily halted his art debut, in many ways it's also the reason he has a gallery showing at all.

"I didn't think anybody cared,” said Simmons when asked why he chose not to put a spotlight on his art all these years. He says taking a pause from touring during the pandemic helped reignite his passion.

"The pandemic gave me a chance to be up in Canada with not a lot of people or media and give in to my, you know, sort of private, secret dreams," he said. "Which is, I've been doodling all my life."

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Simmons pulled his art out of storage, closed himself off to the rest of the world and started experimenting.

"I thought, well, why don't I just dive into the deep end of the pool and see what I can do with acrylic and paint and other materials," he explained. "And that’s what I did.”

'I got no style'

Simmons has no professional training and says he takes inspiration from artists ranging from Jackson Pollock to Andy Warhol, even comic books, and it shows. There’s a lot of variety across his pieces.

"I’ve got no style. I have none. I've been called that many times," he said with a laugh. "‘Gene, you got no style!’”

While it is true his art spans several different genres, it’s almost as if “no style” is his style. If there is one thing I learned from talking to him, Gene Simmons is a true rock star and he does what he wants.

Gene Simmons: "I live my life that way. Here, ask me a question. Ask me what time it is."

Producer Amy Abdelayed: "What time is it?"

Simmons: "Glad you asked me that question. On October the 14th [now rescheduled to Oct. 22-23], we’re going to be here on Animazing — it doesn't matter what anybody asks you, just say what you want to say.”

That philosophy comes through in his work.

"There are no rules. Whether you are writing songs or writing books, or the creation of stuff,” said Simmons.

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"I take a look at every day as this might be the only day I am ever going to be alive. Use it! Play, have fun, enjoy life."

Simmons says the intention behind his artwork is pretty simple.

"Try to make the day less boring by doing cool stuff."

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His approach to art is to not overthink it.

"Sometimes the best thing to do is put a knapsack on your back and just go out on a journey and not know where you're going.”

"I really didn't know what i was doing," he said. "But I like it."

Learn more about his art show, which promises to include personal appearances by Simmons, at Animazing.com. There you can also RSVP, which the gallery says is required.

This story is from our "Las Vegas Art Scene" segment in our newly-launched dedicated digital show "How to Vegas." Watch "How to Vegas" at 10:30 p.m. on Fridays -- and throughout the weekend -- using the KTNV app on your favorite streaming device.

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