Tom was born Touko Laaksonen in Kaarina, southwest Finland in 1920.
He signed his erotic work “Tom” and when his drawings were first published in 1957, the now world-famous “Tom of Finland” was born.
The name Touko Laaksonen was kept for family and colleagues; both friends and fans have always simply called him Tom.
Touko’s Name Day is
Finland is one of the countries in Europe which celebrates Name Days (called Nimipäivä in Finnish). The tradition of celebrating Name Days dedicates a name or names to every calendar day of the year. A person then celebrates a Name Day on the day in the calendar where his or her given name appears.
In Finland, Name Days can be celebrated in the same way as a Birthday, where the individual having the Name Day will receive greeting cards, flowers or gifts from friends and family. Everyone appreciates good wishes on their day.
Graeme Flegenheimer, curator behind TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland [on view through 27th May] resolved this conundrum by levering the artist’s rich creative and personal relationships to present a novel study of Tom, artist and man. Realized in collaboration with Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead at MOCAD, the exhibition explores the value and influence of Tom’s network of collaborators, admirers and supporters. These individuals are often left unacknowledged, but Flegenheimer reminds us that artists do not exist in a vacuum, and are instead the product of a complex web of influences and support systems. For Tom, this included artists like Richard Hawkins, Robert Mapplethorpe, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and John Waters, all of which are represented in the exhibition. The presentation also includes photographs, reference material, and ephemera, within a space that is designed to evoke the spirit of TOM House in Echo Park, Los Angeles.