Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And My Kiss Army Continues to Grow...

Here's the latest recruit to my Kiss Army, Mr. Philip "Space Ace" Bloom.

"Philip (Space Ace) Bloom", 2010

18"x18", oil on cradled panel

With Philip as Ace Frehley, I now have 3 of the four original members of Kiss represented in fine portraiture. Here's a collage of what I have so far. I just need Peter Criss, the original drummer. Hal if you're reading this, the Kiss Army needs you asap.

These portraits are inspired by the Kiss solo albums all released on the same day back in September 18, 1978. The cover of each album featured a painting of the Kiss member on the respective record. Ace Frehley's effort did the best commercially and was also considered the best by music critics. Ace was the lead guitarist of the band. He was the most consummate musician in the group and his guitar playing inspired many to become axe-men back the band's heyday. And just as Gene Simmons' onstage character spewed fire and blood, Ace Frehley had his own performance trick: The smoking guitar. He put smoke bombs in the compartment of his Les Paul and lit them causing smoke to come out through the pickups. Sometimes the smoke would gum up the volume and tone controls and Ace's custom Gibson would stop working. He needed someone to save him from "Spinal Tap" moments like this: Enter John Robison.

In Robison's 2007 memoir "Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's", he devotes a whole chapter, called "The First Smoking Guitar", which details how, as pyrotechnics wizard on the road with Kiss, he helped Ace Frehley create a smoking guitar that was still safe to play. Robison had the idea to put the smokebombs in an insulated box inside the guitar, rather than just dropping them lit into a hole carved in the guitar, as Ace had planned. Bright lights were also added to the custom Gibson, and sometimes there was a wire attached for it to be sent "rocketing" away.

Ace Frehley left Kiss in 1982, finally getting back together with them for their 1996 reunion tour. Over the years he released several solo albums besides the one he did as a member of Kiss. He latest "Anomaly" came out last year. Its his first effort in twenty years. Supposedly Ace gave a concert down here in Venice, FL a few years ago, and almost no one showed, but I couldn't find out anything about it on the web. I was never a Kiss fan, so these portraits are done mostly for their ironic, if not iconic, appeal. Although I did learn a lot about the band over the course of researching and planning this portrait series. For instance, I didn't even know Ace was the lead guitarist, or that he was famous for his smoking axe, or that he is a drugged racist pig with low self-esteem who did nothing...

Good ol' Gene, always the moral compass of the band.

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