Historic images explore influence of Tom of Finland on our culture
If you are gay man, 30 years old or older, chances are you have heard of or seen iconic images from Tom of Finland that feature erotic and artistic portraits of men together and solo in what are easily some of the most sexual and beautiful pieces ever to come out of the gay community.
If you haven’t taken a look at these works of art do yourself a favor and Google them now or better yet, visit the Tom of Finland Foundation for a tour and a history lesson at one of LA’s hidden gems of the gay community tucked away in the historic neighborhood of Echo Park, just blocks away from your favorite eateries on Sunset Boulevard.
In 1984, the non-profit Tom of Finland Foundation was established by Durk Dehner and his friend Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen). As Tom had established worldwide recognition as the expert in homoerotic art, the Foundation’s original purpose was to preserve his “library” of work. Soon after Tom and Durk found themselves with a larger purpose and now, after 35 years, the Foundation still educates the public on just why erotic art is important to overall health and sexuality.
The Foundation is a non-profit organization supported by donations from the public and various fund-raising events throughout Los Angeles during the year.
During LA Pride weekend, the Foundation will join forces in the well-known “Erotic City” tent within the festival to reach out to a larger demographic of festival goers, including the younger generation who might not be as familiar with some of the iconic images and background of the Foundation as it promotes its 400- page, special edition of “My Gay Eye” containing works by more than 120 artists and writers from around the world, as well as a large selection of work from Tom himself. More than just a collection of beefcake images, the book features essays and pieces of history that help to build a bridge between the continents of Europe and America and the twin cities of Berlin and Los Angeles. This collection which will be on hand to purchase, is an in depth exploration of the history and influence of Tom of Finland within the gay community.
Rinaldo Hopf, editor of the book, gives the community a sense of the culture and art that has been shown at the Foundation. Hopf an important figure of German gay art, was Resident Artist at The Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles in 2017, and brings to life, the collection from over the years, in “My Gay Eye.”
“It starts with Tom’s work process: the collages he did with found images from newspapers and magazines and preparatory sketches. Durk Dehner came up with the idea to feature examples of all the techniques Tom used, from taking his own reference photos, to pen and ink drawings, to the absolutely finished masterworks,” Hopf notes.
After you pick up your copy of My Gay Eye, on Saturday, inside Erotic City, head over to a special event at the Tom of Finland Foundation house in Echo Park: RUBEN ESPARZA “Piss + Blood & Spunk: Seminal Works 1993-2019.”
Ruben Esparza combines the skills of a multimedia artist and the insight of a gifted curator to synergize intensely cross-referential artworks. This exhibition of 20 of Ruben Esparza’s most potent pieces includes a survey of the artists, art influencers and scenesters who frequent TOM House, and who Esparza has photographed in a collection of Polaroids.
Opening night events include performances and happenings by Oscar David Alvarez, FleshPiece, Ridge Gallagher, Jordan Michael Green, Jamison Karon, Marval A Rex, and Sheree Rose.
TOM House is at 1421 Laveta Terrace in LA,
213-250-1685 or TomOfFinlandFoundation.org.
By Roman Navarrette
If you can’t make it to the festival, you can order a copy online.