Gene Simmons Debuts Artwork at Vegas Gallery, Talks COVID Experience: 'I Felt Nothing'
Gene Simmons is surrounded by about 50 paintings and sketches — all of which he created himself — when he admits, "I don't know what I'm doing."
The KISS frontman took up painting during the pandemic as a way to keep his mind occupied, but he never thought anyone would actually be interested in buying his works. But here he is watching people spend tens of thousands of dollars for his artwork hanging at a Las Vegas art gallery inside the Venetian.
"I didn't even know you're supposed to name the paintings," he shrugged. "I never considered myself a painter. I never considered myself much of anything. You're talking to the least qualified person you'd ever meet... I can tell you that I have a sense of wonder."
That mentality was a reason why he locked himself in an industrial park in Whistler, Canada, in 2020 and began painting.
"I just wanted to stay sane," he tells PEOPLE. "I didn't know you were supposed to have a style, and I didn't do anything except try to keep my mind busy. So the art is more stream of consciousness. "
After lockdown ended, Simmons put his brushes down and went on tour with KISS, only to catch COVID despite being vaccinated. Guitarist Paul Stanley also caught the virus, leading the band to postpone a handful of concerts.
"Paul and I had completely different experiences. His [symptoms] were pretty mild. I felt nothing. I didn't know I had COVID," Simmons, who's wearing a mask, shares. "Out of respect for everyone, I quarantined, but my appetite was up, my energy was strong, no running nose, no nothing."
Once everybody was clear of COVID and had negative tests, KISS continued on the tour. Because of that, Simmons hasn't painted in a while. When the tour is over, Simmons will likely paint again, but, despite some of his pieces going for upwards of $245,000, he's not in it for the money.
"No, I have money," he says unpretentiously. "It is interesting. Money, for me, has become what champions in the Olympics do. They want to keep improving because they want the judges to hold up a higher number. That's what it becomes when you don't have enough food in your belly. You don't think of it that way, because you just want to feed yourself. It's a different thing. Once you have enough, a roof over your head and food in your belly and stuff, it's how much better can I do this? How much more can I do this? More like a contest. It's different."
Breakthrough cases — COVID-19 infections that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus — are unlikely, but possible and expected, as the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infections. Still, vaccinated people who test positive will likely be asymptomatic or experience a far milder illness than if they were not vaccinated. The majority of deaths from COVID-19 — around 98 to 99% — are in unvaccinated people.
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