I had an amazing and life affirming experience this weekend with the men of Tom of Finland Foundation. I was asked to create a piece of work to live alongside TOM House in Echo Park. The piece is a 40′ X 10′ mural applied to the structure that houses some of the legendary works by Tom of Finland as well as countless other gay artists. Some of these artists had a level of notoriety but many were simply creative men who felt the urge and desire to bring to life artistic work glorifying the male form and a sex positive vision of the Gay Male.
A portion of the work in the collection was donated but some of it was salvaged from the homes of men who died of AIDS in the last 30+ years. As the story was told to me, frequently during the height of the plague, the men at TOM House would get a call from a friend or neighbor reporting that a certain man in the community had died and that his family was on the way to clear out his possessions. Knowing that in almost every case, this would mean the destruction and disposal of any artwork with homoerotic theme, the crew would go in and remove as much as they could to preserve the work and honor the deceased. This act of preservation has formed the foundation of this incredible and important collection.
I am proud beyond words to have been asked by the Foundation to add my voice and artistic expression to the collection in this way.
Below is my Artist’s Statement regarding the piece. I hope if you are ever in the Los Angeles area you can stop by TOM House and check out the piece or join in for the unveiling at the Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival on October 1-2.
I’ve always been fascinated by the written descriptions of famous gay sex clubs and historic cruising areas. I’ve often fantasized about the places and the scenes and tableaux that must have existed during their heyday and how easily I could have been present and a participant if only I’d been alive and located in the cities where they existed.
One such place that I’ve thought countless times about was the short-lived sex club in Los Angeles known as Halsted’s. Founded by actor, director and escort, Fred Halsted (1941-1989), the club was located in Silver Lake. It had the obligatory glory holes, bunk beds and slings, but in addition, there were four truck trailers that were parked behind the club inside a walled yard. Ideal spots for the kind of activity I imagine took place at Halsted’s. These were dark, anonymous, ripe and raw spaces where anything could happen. If I had been of age and living in LA during that year that Halsted’s was open, I would have been a regular and I would have wanted to plaster, slap and tag my work all over those trailers.
When I first saw the shipping container and its placement alongside the famous house that was once inhabited by Tom of Finland, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to the Halsted’s of my erotic dreams. Nestled against a wall, behind a big black gate and towering ficus hedge, there was an instant association for me between this structure and the truck trailers out back of Halsted’s. With this piece, I believe I’ve been given the opportunity to do what I would have done there but in this historic place where creative energy, gay love, lust and sexual history ooze from every crack and crevice.
Incorporating into this piece the iconic imagery of Tom of Finland, I hope to honor Tom and his spirit as well as salute and pay tribute to the men of Tom of Finland Foundation who honor and preserve his legacy.