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TOUGHER THAN LEATHER: THE TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION’S FIGHT AGAINST CENSORSHIP CONTINUES INTO THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE

Cover story in this week’s print edition. TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Portrait of Durk, 1980, Graphite on paper
© 1980-2019 Tom of Finland Foundation

Tom of Finland Foundation presented a panel in October at their Art Festival, “How Do We Communicate On/With Social Media.” They invited reps from Facebook and Instagram to join the artists, activists, educators and lawyers on the panel.

In April of this year, Rick Castro had one of his first solo shows at TOM House, a retrospective called Fetish King: Seminal Photographs 1986 – 2019. LGBTQ outlet The Advocate advanced the exhibit and posted the article with several images from the show. The more risqué photos required users to press a button confirming they were old enough to view the content; however, when The Advocate posted the story on Castro’s Facebook page, they suspended his account for 30 days. The image Facebook objected to featured two lucha libre wrestlers on top of each other, fully clothed.

“To censor is to kill off the voice of a person,” echoes Danny Fuentes, who co-presents an art show with ToFF from trans icon Genesis P-Orridge. “Art as a whole should never be censored, I still think art is our society’s last sacred thing and I stand with Tom of Finland Foundation in trying to keep art dangerous, provocative and even disturbing, but above all keep the conversation open and ongoing.”

As for the Foundation’s banishment from Instagram, the image that was apparently the final straw was from an art catalogue for a Denmark art show Tom was included in — one celebrating the end of a ban on visual pornography in that country. Yes, it’s ironic.

“An unwritten mission of ours is to make art and beauty a part of your life,” says S. R. Sharp, ToFF V.P. Despite its recent struggles, the group has continued to do just that. Though the internet didn’t exist when Tom of Finland created his original images, the fight for them to be seen then versus now isn’t that different.

And as long as the Foundation continues to fulfill its official mission statement, freedom wins. It reads, “Tom of Finland Foundation shall continue to encourage the work of erotic visual artists regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, sexual identity, medium of expression or any other censoring criteria.”

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, 1980, Pencil on paper
© 1980-2019 Tom of Finland Foundation

Tom of Finland and Lethal Amounts present Sex Cells X Daddywood fundraiser at Precinct DTLA, Fri., Nov. 17, 9 p.m. (A portion of the proceeds will go to the Tom of Finland Foundation for the preservation of erotic art).

Opening reception for Bas Koster, the Foundation’s artist-in-residence, takes place Sun., Nov. 24. 

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE IN L.A. WEEKLY BY MICHAEL COOPER

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