John Waters: This Filthy World – Filthier and More Horrible
Lasipalatsi, Bio Rex
23rd October, 2012
Wiki and I attended the John Waters stand up show – the first thing out of John’s mouth in response to the applause was, “Wow, I feel like Tom of Finland!” Then, during the Q and A, he was asked if he ever met Tom. He answered no, but there is this house, Tom of Finland Foundation, in Los Angeles… He went on to tell a great story about visiting TOM House, having a slave and even talked about “the president, Durk” in all his leather gear. He basically opened and closed with a shout-out to Tom.
John, Wiki and Al
We got to very quickly visit him after the show and then again at his book signing in Kamppi. It was really uplifting to hear the Foundation and Durk mentioned by John in a sold-out auditorium of Finns.
The Tom of Finland retrospective which was one of the key highlights of Turku’s European Capital of Culture 2011 has attracted record audiences of 31,000 over the summer at the prestigious Kulturhuset in Stockholm.
The exhibition ran for nearly two months (28.6.-19.8.2012) and consisted of over 50 rare and iconic drawings on special loan from the permanent collection of Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles.
Curator Gary Everett of Homotopia, Liverpool said: “The response to Tom in Stockholm has been incredible and Homotopia are very proud to have created a unique and important legacy of our hugely successful year in Turku
“Our collaboration with Homotopia and Turku 2011 has been a true milestone for our organisation and we hope to continue to foster stronger links in the UK & Finland. Tom would have been so happy to see what’s been achieved in his homeland and Sweden, added Durk Dehner, President of Tom of Finland Foundation Los Angeles.
“We made the Tom of Finland retrospective part of Turku’s European Capital of Culture year because we wanted to introduce Tom’s works to a wider audience and also to leave a legacy that would benefit research related to arts and human rights in particular. The year 2011 was Tom’s coming home.
Cay Sevón, CEO of the Turku 2011 Foundation said: “For us, working together with the Foundation in LA and Homotopia in Liverpool was a valuable experience, and we are happy to have been given the chance to take the project to Stockholm’s Kulturhuset, which is, of course, a very high-profile place to exhibit in.”
The Turku 2011 Foundation awarded funding to Homotopia Liverpool’s Tom of Finland exhibition as part of the legacy of the European Capital of Culture year 2011. The same exhibition attracted 90,000 visitors in Turku, making it one of the biggest crowd-pullers of the celebratory year. In all, the exhibitions in Turku and Stockholm were seen by some 121,000 people.
Homotopia was also planning to take parts of the exhibition to St Petersburg, again with the support of the Turku 2011 Foundation, but decided to cancel the project after being warned by British officials that going ahead with the plans could put them at risk under the city’s new anti-gay legislation, which was introduced at the end of February this year. St Petersburg’s new piece of legislation banning for example films, music videos, books and magazines with homosexual content has sparked an international outcry.
The 20th century certainly had its share of incredibly influential gay artists but one man’s work arguably changed the way that gay men were seen — and saw themselves.
Touko Laaksonen was born in Finland in 1920. As a child he loved music, literature and especially art and he began attending art school in 1939. Soon after Laaksonen began drawing homoerotic images of muscular men, many of whom were inspired by the men — like lumberjacks, police men and sailors — he looked up to and admired during his childhood.
In 1956, at the urging of a friend, he submitted several of his drawings to an American muscle magazine called Physique Pictorial and landed the cover of its spring 1957 issue. The editor of the publication suggested the artist change his name from the Finnish Touko to the American “Tom,” and soon Tom of Finland was showing his work in major cities and publishing his images internationally. Along with a friend, Laaksonen started the Tom of Finland Company in 1979, which works to preserve and exhibit exotic art. Due to complications with emphysema, Laaksonen passed away in 1991.
Laaksonen’s greatest contribution, aside from the beauty and humor of his images, is his drawings’ proud, joyful approach to homosexuality and sex. “I work very hard to make sure that the men I draw having sex are proud men having happy sex!” Laaksonen once said. Tom of Finland’s drawings were some of the first to depict gay men as healthy, happy people rather than demented deviants and they helped positively shape gay culture around the world.
For more information on Tom of Finland and to see images of his work, visit his foundation’s official website.