During this month during this year, when social and political tensions are at an all time high, where art is being censored—stripped funding because people fear what consequences may come from supporting someone who speaks out … We couldn’t be more proud to get super queer. To celebrate revolutionary artists and homosexuality. Plus it’s really fun.
Better known under his pseudonym Tom of Finland, Touko Valio Laaksonen is acclaimed as the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images” by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. Most of Tom’s earlier illustrations were for private eyes, burned after being viewed—works of art that no one had ever seen before because in some places the punishment would be death. Tom of Finland found catharsis from the forced privatization of the gay community with his erotic illustrations, creating a cultural phenomenon just as relevant today as it was then.
The Tom of Finland House (TOM House) sits three stories above Los Angeles’ Echo Park, the home and pieces of artwork within it, have been preserved by its Foundation, a nonprofit organization that’s been protecting and promoting erotic art for over 25 years. We were lucky enough to have the home all to ourselves (things might’ve gotten a little weird, shhhh) and meet up with Terry Miller for a photoshoot featuring Nicopanda x Tom of Finland. Miller might not need an intro, but it’s so fun to write about him, how could we not? Miller is an ambassador for Tom of Finland. Which means he embodies the art, sex, style, masculinity, and cultural iconicism that’s found in Tom’s work. And when he’s not doing that, you know, he’s sitting on the Board of Directors of The Seattle Symphony and hosting gay nights around town.
In celebration of pride, we present a twenty-two piece “Daddy” approved collection, exclusively available at OC, Nicopanda, and the ToF Store. The tees, tanks and hoodies are filled with Tom’s iconic illustrations, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Foundation (even better, right?). Below, we get queer with Terry Miller on the significance of Tom of Finland (if you don’t know, this is mandatory reading), pride and why in Miller’s life, it’s always leather weather.
CARLY AIMI: What is your favorite Tom of Finland piece of work and why?
TERRY MILLER: My favorite piece of Tom of Finland is The Hitchhiker. This dude has been the secret man of my dreams since I first saw him in my teens. It’s also fueled an obsession with owning a motorcycle that my husband won’t let me bring to fruition.
In your opinion why is it so important to preserve erotic art?
Erotic art has been around for eons, look at Greek art for instance, there was never a problem or issue with celebrating the erotic as long as it was fairly heteronormative. Homosexual erotic art has been in that zone of seeming less important because of our own minority status. Preserving this art now is imperative to claiming part of LGBT history. No matter how out there, or transgressive it is, we need to preserve and celebrate the works of great homo artists. Etienne, Harry Bush, George Quaintance, Tom of Finland, etc. all of it holds value, not just historic and sexual, but cultural.
There’s probably so many gay teens in rural areas that don’t know about Tom of Finland’s work—How do we continue ToF’s reach and influence across the country and world?
Protecting his value by preserving and licensing his work for good use, and carrying on a tradition of gallery and museum shows worldwide is very important. This is much easier in Western Europe where ToF is seen as a positive figure not just by the LGBT community but he is beloved by straight people across the Nordic countries.
This is why Tom of Finland Store’s online presence is such an asset now. A place to build collaborations with other gay artists and designers, and sell and purchase art by Tom all under one “roof”. It makes sense to see a whole collection of work evolving together and being presented in one place.