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.
How did you get involved with TOM House? I personally am a huge fan and the historical landmark pin— what is that collaboration like? Will it be ongoing?
Our first collaboration was with Stuart Sandford, a resident artist of TOM House, and he introduced us to the crew there. The historical landmark pin is a memento of a piece of history. TOM House has created so many opportunities for gay artists and we think it’s really cool to be able to own a piece of that. We would love to keep those collabs going and find new ways to transform the TOM House legacy into pin form.