The upcoming Erotic Art Fair Weekend (March 25-27) is a pleasure dome. It is a time to come together, celebrate and indulge in Beauty. It can be seen as a special garden exposition where one can appreciate, and take home for our own gardens, a variety that speaks to us.
TOM OF FINLAND (Finnish, 1920 – 1991)
Untitled (Detail), 1981, Graphite on paper
ToFF #81.23, © 1981 Tom of Finland Foundation
It takes everyone’s participation to keep Gay culture alive and thriving. Each generation and its leaders have the responsibility to secure our due place in history. One of the most important and powerful players from our community is the artist Tom of Finland. Since the mid ‘50s, his drawings have depicted happy, affirmative Gay men relating to each other through love, sex, respect and friendship.
Tom pioneered a major, positive shift on how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived. We have to remember that for some, we are still seen as strange, and even perverse, in our natures. We must maintain an environment that nurtures esteem.
The LGBT Community has arrived at the threshold of acceptance into broader western culture. All of our rights as people have not been fully restored, yet that time is within our sight. The most difficult sticking point is our display of physical affection and sexual activities that affect the levels of “discomfort” in the non-Gay’s world.
Recently, a red flag was sent up to us all when the City of West Hollywood’s Art and Cultural Affairs Commission voted unanimously not to endorse the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Erotic Art Fair Weekend. The annual West Hollywood – Los Angeles event has been co-sponsored by the City since 2003 and this year the City Council again voted to co-sponsor the Weekend.
Three of the City’s commissioners are Gay men. We have to be aware of our tendencies to sell ourselves short in order to gain acceptance by the larger world. A world – a majority – that has often disregarded, and at times outright discouraged, aspects of who we are.
In a recent letter sent to West Hollywood city officials, we reminded them that Gays are a tribe – like an indigenous people – with our own rites and rituals. Like our American Indian brothers, we too have endured discrimination and alienation. The Erotic Art Fair Weekend in an international gathering, honoring who has gone before and where we are now. We can only know where we are going if we know where we are and have been.
Tom of Finland Foundation – your Foundation – and we are yours – has protected, preserved and promoted the erotic arts for 27 years: The arts that reflect who we are as a people.
Your attendance at this festival contributes to some very essential and fundamental elements of what it is to be Gay. First of all, you are telling your own community’s artists that they matter – that their work matters. You encourage artists to keep developing and sharing what they see. Second, you will cultivate yourself by feeding your identity – an individual part of a remarkable and courageous family. It is reaffirming to be in the presence of others with whom we share likes and desires. Come and partake.