Eye On WeHo – A Celebration of Erotic Art

A celebration of Erotic Art

Tom of Finland Foundation’s Erotic Art Fair Draws Hundreds


Nothing says springtime in West Hollywood like an art show featuring the best in male erotica. Hundreds of art enthusiasts, as well as those who just want to feast their eyes on some hot young male models, are in attendance for the 2011 edition of the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Erotic Art Fair.

An event that first took place in 1995, this well-organized showcase features erotic art in all forms, from photography and paintings to unique one-of-a-kind sculptures. The auditorium at West Hollywood Park provided a spacious venue in which to browse the artists’ offerings, as well as to meet and mingle with others in attendance.

The event also featured a ‘Meet Mr. L.A. Leather’ welcoming ceremony and informative symposiums on self-censorship within the gay culture as well as a discussion of the Government’s role in what can be seen as ‘art’. West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman and Councilmember Abbe Land were in attendance for the event’s opening ceremony.

Browsing art is one thing, but creating your own can be even more interesting. Live male models are on hand to inspire the creativity of those seeking a more hands-on (but not on the models,of course) experience. Each has found their own way to capture the male form before them, from pencil sketches to watercolors.

If one male model is good, two is even better. These handsome young men struck a very sensual pose and, should either of them need to take a quick break, I would be more than happy to fill in. These young men certainly captured the essence of what this weekend’s art fair is about – celebrating the beauty of the male form.

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Censorship a Theme at Erotic Arts Fair

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Councilmember Abbe Land and Mayor John Heilman officially open the Erotic Arts Fair at West Hollywood Park.
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Councilmember Abbe Land and Mayor John Heilman officially open the Erotic Arts Fair at West Hollywood Park. Credit JamesF.Mills
Drag nuns, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, were on hand as part of the official opening ceremony. Credit JamesF.Mills
Michael Thorn, editor-in-chief of Instigator Magazine, weighs in on the censorship debate. Credit JamesF.Mills
Bo Tobin of Tom of Finland Foundation offers his insight on the censorship discussion. Credit JamesF.Mills

At the event this weekend, LGBT community members discuss public homoerotic imagery and where the city of West Hollywood fits in.

By James F. Mills | Email the author | March 27, 2011

Censorship was the talk of the 16th annual Tom of Finland Erotic Arts Fair, which opened its two-day exhibition at West Hollywood Park Auditorium on Saturday. Dozens of exhibitors displayed their erotically themed artwork, while hundreds of people came through to see and purchase it.

Dedicated to preserving and exhibiting erotic art, Los-Angeles-based Tom of Finland puts on the fair each year.

Despite years of city sponsorship, the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC) voted in January not to sponsor the art fair. One reason given was that the event would be taking place in the park “where there are children.”

Dan Berkowitz, co-chair of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and a former president of the Tom of Finland Foundation, was present at the ACAC meeting.

“The most alarming thing is none of the people on that commission are our enemies. They are one of us,” Berkowitz said. “When the LGBT community is attempting to censor its own … things are really in trouble.”

The vote provoked outrage across the gay community with cries that the gay community had gotten too far from its roots where homoerotic imagery was encouraged.

The City Council quickly moved to approve sponsorship of the arts fair. The event went on as scheduled, but not everyone was supportive.

Bo Tobin of the Tom of Finland Foundation reported that the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center declined to put up posters promoting the Erotic Arts Fair. Tobin said center workers were concerned about the poster containing the image of Michelangelo’s “David” and the use of the word “erotic.”

With censorship on everyone’s minds, the fair held a symposium Saturday afternoon titled: “Is Self-Censorship Really Self-Loathing in Gay Culture?”

Artist Michael Kirwan called the censorship controversy just part of a larger problem in the LGBT community.

“How can we be gay men without expressing our sexuality?” asked Kirwan. “Arts have always been a way for people with minds of courage to express themselves . . . allowing the most needy among us to commandeer our community.”

Berkowitz believes the problem is more insidious than censorship.

“We are all becoming victims of our success in mainstreaming gay culture,” he said. “Bare chaps may be OK in Silver Lake, but they’re not OK in La Jolla.”

Longtime activist Ivy Bottini, also a member of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, believes the gay community has allowed larger organizations to take over what smaller, grass-roots groups once did.

“We have become a community of check writers,” she said. “We used to do protests in the streets. Unless we get off our butts, bare or not, we are digging our own graves.”

Bottini believes that in the push for same-sex marriage, the LGBT community has been cleaned up for better presentation to the rest of society. And by cleaning up, many on the edge are being left out.

Michael Thorn, editor-in-chief of Instigator magazine, agreed, saying that corporate sponsorship of gay pride has diluted pride because the companies want to clean things up and get rid of the rough edges.

“Everybody’s got a right to be normal, but there is something even better about not being normal,” said Tobin.

Later in the afternoon, Mayor John Heilman and Councilwoman Abbe Land came to officially open the arts fair. Fair organizers thanked Heilman and Land for the city gifting them the use of the auditorium. Heilman replied that it was not a gift from the city, but rather “it’s a gift to us to have you here.”

Heilman said he hoped the Erotic Arts Fair would continue to be in West Hollywood for years to come and added that he would do anything possible to make sure it stays in the city.

Land commented on how thrilled she has been over the years to see the fair grow, first in Plummer Park and now in West Hollywood Park. Noticing how the entire auditorium was filled with artists and exhibitors, Land added, “We need to find a bigger venue for you.”

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