An astute observer and recorder of life – Michael Kirwan (27th December 1953 – 26th May 2018)

Michael Kirwan at Tom of Finland Art Fair, 2012

With a sad heart, we are letting you know that artist Michael Kirwan passed away peacefully on the morning of Saturday, 26th May 2018, in Los Angeles, California.

Hoist a glass and make a toast in celebration of the life of a great and unique man as well as an amazing artist.

Michael was born 27th December 1953. He lived a life filled with joys, passions, family, friends, and art. Michael resided in New York, New York; Miami, Florida; and most recently, Los Angeles, California. Creating his art was his most passionate activity, but he also enjoyed socializing, cooking, intimate encounters, movies, sharing his opinions, and being an astute observer and recorder of life.

While Michael’s artistic talents surfaced early, life had a way of forcing real-world responsibilities on a young Michael. Yes, he was married early in his life and was pleased to have fathered a son, Larry Kirwan. As Michael was reaching his late twenties, his marriage ended and he began a new, Queer life that brought comfort within himself and adventures that would make for raucous stories for decades to come.

Michael always had a gift for telling and writing stories, but it was his illustrations and drawings that would give his friends and fans the clearest window into Michael’s thoughts and his heart. His first published work of art appeared in PlayGuy magazine in 1980, and getting paid to create art was Michael’s sweetest dream come true. Through the late 1980s until the mid 2000s, Michael’s highly detailed and evocative art was published in more than 600 magazines. There were periods of the ’90s when Michael’s art appeared in as many as six different magazines per month. The art was Gay, Straight, fetish, hardcore, and promotional to illustrate fiction, comics, and real life. Michael was incredibly prolific and his talent grew and became more and more popular with fans, readers, and art collectors.

Michael’s works of art have appeared in galleries and exhibitions around the world. After moving to California, he spent a year as the Artist-in-Residence with Tom of Finland Foundation. Michael enjoyed an inspirational relationship with the work and history of  Tom and a very supportive relationship with the people of his Foundation who are dedicated to the education and preservation of erotic art for all artists. These years would provide Michael with the most important friendships and partnerships, and during this time, Michael created the best work of his life. Through that association, Michael appeared at internationally attended events and exhibitions that brought new admirers to his work and his grand persona as an artist. He was inducted into the Foundation’s Artist Hall of Fame in 2004.

Collectors with great taste and savvy expertise from across the globe have purchased Michael’s original works. After the adult magazine publishers faltered against the internet, Michael drew for his pleasure, to pay rent, and for fans commissioning unique and always interesting erotic scenes via his website Michael always felt he was visually documenting every variety and scenario in Gay and Straight sexual activities. His inspirations for drawing his characters came from the everyday, regular people he would encounter on the streets, on the bus, throughout parks and markets, in seedy bars, and in dark alleys where names were not exchanged but furtive fun was found. Michael’s drawings exposed the fevered excitement and erotic beauty in every body and face. Michael always said he did not draw “pretty” guys because he knew regular guys had better sex.

Selections of Michael’s works have appeared in numerous books, but a highlight for him came in 2011 as a broad retrospective of his paintings was published in a monograph book titled Just So Horny. The obvious theme tying the works together was Michael’s obsessive attention to details, patterns, and backgrounds. The characters he drew were front and center, but Michael gave them life in a rich and colorful environment he painted on paper as he created the elaborate backstories in his head. Much of Michael’s work was created with fine-point watercolor pens, making thin lines and blending an abundance of colors and layers, to make fantasies filled with his humor and wry sense of style leaping from the page. Michael rarely drew in front of anyone because he preferred solitude as he worked hunched over an art pad straining and crossing his eyes as he would create minute details and repeating patterns as fabrics and tile works setting a stage for his horny creations.

Michael wanted everyone to buy erotic art (most especially his, of course) and hang it where it should be seen by all. His artwork was part of a recent museum show, TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland in Detroit.

In addition to his son, Michael is survived by his aunt, Joan Morey and her children Mark Morey and Christina Strain.

There will be A Celebration of the Life of Michael Kirwan
on Saturday, 30th June at TOM House.

READ “Erotic artist Michael Kirwan dies at 64” by Phillip Zonkel for Q Voice News



Rinaldo Hopf is a world renowned artist and long time friend of Tom of Finland Foundation. Before living at TOM House, his large format portrait of Tom was donated to the Foundation by a collector. Ever since it’s hung proudly in the stairwell— the first I ever knew of Hopf. He has done artist residencies all over the world, and continues to travel and make sexually liberated art. I met Rinaldo in 2017, when he came to live at TOM House as the Artist-in-Residence. He’s a charming fellow who is immensely talented with a diverse ouvre. Since 2005, Rinaldo has edited the queer anthology My Gay Eye, and has just come out with the latest issue, an homage to Tom of Finland! I had the chance to ask him some questions about TOM House, his art, and the new anthology.

RINALDO HOPF, Under the Joshua Tree

You met many artists in LA who are affiliated with the Foundation. Can you talk about how they inspired you to create the latest issue of My Gay Eye?

Well, together with the art collection at TOM House, it was you L.A. artists and writers whom I met at the House who made me want to do this book. I was roommates with the jolly and charming British artist Stuart Sandford with his sexy Latino boys. I would see his sculptures coming in boxes and then lying amidst socks and underwear on his bed. I had never seen 3D prints, but there they were, and he would explain the technical process to me. Stuart introduced me to you, and you gave me your book of short stories. I read them on the long bus trips to the beach and loved them! In one of them you described perfectly what it feels like to be a writer (or artist) in residence at TOM House. Of course you described YOUR experiences, but they were not so different from mine. That was actually one of the starting points for this book.

I didn’t know that! I’m flattered. Can you talk about the community at TOM House?

There is the everyday work of the residents and the many volunteers in the archives and the library. I really liked this aspect of life at the house, it’s a changing community of very special and lovely people. There’s Marty, a librarian about 60 years old, with her little dog Cleo, who would probably not be expected to be archiving gay pornography. Or her roommate Louie, who meticulously prepared the picture materials and did most of the graphic work for the present volume. There are the daily meals together in the house or garden; the guided tours of the house, where I met staff from Sotheby’s, New York; the weekly tea salon hosted by photographer Rick Castro; the many unusual and exciting visitors, and former artists-in-residence. Some days I was so busy working I forgot to leave the premises. There there were so many interesting people around anyway.