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My personal life has over the past 10 years has become my story of a lifetime, leading me to the inspirations in my personal art work, taking a strong interest in gay erotic art, from the works of; axel, george cayford, Dave Davenport better know as "dogspunk" and mostly focusing on the works of Tom of Finland.
Tom of Finland's real name is Touko this is because he was born on 8 May 1920, on the south coast of Finland, on the south coast of Finland, and May in Finnish is "Toukokuu".
His homeland had been independent for just three years when Touko was born, and outside its few cities the country was still rough and wild. The men who worked in the fields and woods, the farmers and loggers, were true frontiersmen, every bit as rough and wild as the countryside.
Touko grew up among those men but was not a part of their world.
Both his parents were schoolteachers, and they raised Touko indoors in an atmosphere of art, literature and music. Obviously talented, by the time he was five he was playing the piano and drawing comic strips. He loved art, literature and music.
Although my up bring was different we share similar history's, personally I grew up in a built up urban council flat in Hackney London, with my mum as a single parent.
Myself as a child was much of an outcast in school life and social events, I found my self staying more confined to the inside alone and only to focus on my studies and music, this was not so easy with my learning difficulties I had always found it hard to express my feelings, though still unknown.
Around the age of 13 seems to be the time where I started to understand myself better, from fantasizing about men to having a hard time coming to terms with going threw puberty. At this time my mum had started relations with my current step-dad and fell pregnant, this prompted the move form the city to Canvey Island, Essex.
Here I didn't know any one and had no concept of if they would understand or except me, my fantasies were left, I became more of a active, sporty person which intern only fueled my fantasies, at this time in my life I tried to deny my feelings and constant on my further.
College, at this time I have excepted my feelings and announced that I was homosexual, this did help me come to terms with my feelings, yet I still could not express what I felt words and text, fundamentally I found college work studying the subject of computer information and communication (ICT)
But he loved those outdoorsmen even more. At that same age of five, Touko began to spy on a neighbour, a muscular, stomping farmboy whose name, "Urho", means "hero". Urho was the first in a long line of heroes to hold Tom's attention while he memorized every flex of their lean muscles, every humorous twist of their full lips.
In 1939, Touko went to art school in Helsinki to study advertising. His fascination expanded to include the sexy city types he found in that cosmopolitan port - construction workers, sailors, policemen - but he never dared proposition them.
It was not until Stalin invaded Finland and Tom was drafted into a lieutenant's uniform that he found nirvana in the blackouts of World War II. At last, in the streets of the pitch-black city, he began to have the sex he had dreamed of with the uniformed men he lusted after, especially once the German soldiers had arrived in their irresistible jackboots.
After the war, Touko went back to studying art and also took piano classes at the famed Sibelius Institute. Peace put an end to blackout sex and uniforms became rare again, so Touko returned to his teenage practice of locking himself in his room, stripping naked, and stroking himself with one hand while the other hand created on paper what he could seldom find on the streets.
By day, he did freelance artwork - advertising, window displays, fashion design. In the evenings, he played the piano at parties and cafes, becoming a popular member of Helsinki's post-war bohemian set. He avoided the fledgling gay scene, because what were then called "artistic" bars were dominated by the flamboyant effeminacy typical of the time. He traveled frequently, becoming very familiar with the gay cruising areas found in every major city. Still, in 1953, when he met Veli, the man with whom he would live for the next 28 years, it was on a street corner a few blocks from home.
At the end of 1956, at the urging of a friend, Touko sent his secret artwork to a popular American muscle magazine, but, being cautious in those paranoid times, and anyway thinking that "Touko Laaksonen" was too tough a name for American tongues, he signed them,"Tom". The editor loved them. The cover of the Spring 1957 issue of "Physique Pictorial" features a laughing lumberjack, drawn by "Tom of Finland". It was a sensation. Touko became Tom of Finland. The rest is history.
The demand for what Tom always called his "dirty drawings" grew quickly, but neither erotic art nor homosexual art paid very well in the Fifties. He soon stopped playing the piano in order to devote the time to his drawing, but it would be 1973 before Tom of Finland was making enough money for Touko Laaksonen to be able to quit his daytime job in advertising. Once he could devote his efforts full-time to his erotic drawing, Tom combined photorealistic attention to detail with his wildest sexual fantasies to produce a body of work that, for sheer homoerotism, will probably never be surpassed.
1973 was also the year of Tom's first art exhibition, in Hamburg, Germany, but that experience was so negative (all but one of the drawings were stolen) that it would be 1978 before he would agree to another exhibit, in Los Angeles, for which he made his first trip to America. Over the next couple of years, a series of exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, with trips to America for each one, turned the shy Helsinki artist into an international gay celebrity with friends the like of Etienne and Robert Mapplethorpe. The business end of his career was taken up by a Canadian American, Durk Dehner, and under his capable management Tom at last had financial security. In 1981, Tom's lover, Veli, died of throat cancer; at the same time, the AIDS epidemic began to hit hard the very cities and circles of friends he had so recently come to love in America. Still, throughout the Eighties, the trips to America continued to increase until Tom was spending six months in L.A. with Durk Dehner for every six he spent back in Helsinki. After emphysema was diagnosed in 1988, Tom was forced to curtail his beloved traveling but continued to draw.
When the disease, and the medication, made his hand tremble too much for him to execute the finely detailed work for which he had become famous, Tom switched back to a childhood favourite, pastel, executing a richly coloured series of nudes in that medium almost up until his death from an emphysema-induced stroke on 7 November 1991. In spite of his own affectionate term, Tom's work must be considered more than just "dirty drawings", and given some of the credit for the change in the gay world's self-image. When Tom's work was first published, homosexuals thought they had to be imitation women, and spent their lives hiding in the shadows. Thirty-five years later, gays were much more likely to be hard-bodied sun-lovers in boots and leather, masculinity personified. Tom's influence in that direction was no accidental byproduct of his art. From the beginning, he consciously strove to instill in his work a positive, up-beat openness. When asked if he was not a little embarrassed that all his art showed men having sex, he disagreed emphatically: "I work very hard to make sure that the men I draw having sex are proud men having happy sex!"
by Valentine Hooven III
Author of the full-length biography "Tom of Finland - His Life and Times" published by St. Martin's Press in 1993 (source for biographical photographs). This short biography is taken from the Taschen monograph "Tom of Finland" published in 1992.
Durk Dehner (l) and Tom of Finland circa 1985
Tom of Finland, the artist and man, was born, raised and lived most of his life in his native Finland, dying there in 1991 at the age of 71. I was in my mid-20s when Tom and I started corresponding back in 1976 and was ripe and ready to experience the messages he portrayed in his works. Tom quickly became the most important person to influence my life to that date. I discovered through his work that I was as much of a man as any of my heterosexual counterparts and that sex and love between men could be a heroic bonding experience - not unlike that of Greek and Roman soldiers.
Tom's favorite character, "Kake", was always just as willing to get his hole plowed as he was to do the plowing and clearly sent the message out that sex between men is just plain manly - no matter what position one takes. By his characters' actions Tom showed unbridled sexual passion between men and, afterwards, a brotherhood and camaraderie. His drawings also encouraged guys to experiment and push boundaries, to do anything to turn your partner on and get him off.
Tom - along with the physique photographers of the 50s - has finally been acknowledged as the man responsible for creating the image of the leatherman that persists to this day. His drawings not only rocked the boundaries of the gay community of the time but also spread into the straight leather biker clubs of England, Germany and, eventually, the US. Tom's leatherman image has manifested itself as a style of clothes, build, attitude and lifestyle. In fact, some straight men are beginning to consider Tom's Man the "uber-man", an ultimate male sexhound role model.
In Tom, we have a grandfather of sorts to share with younger generations and if Tom were here today his message would be to stay young at heart. (In fact, Tom continued to frequent the leather and dancing scene well into his 60s). Tom would also tell both men and women that when they are in the heat of sexual arousal and they look at that special guy, his cock looks as big and delicious as any Tom ever drew himself.
"Dirty" Durk Dehner
Cofounder and Director of the Tom of Finland Foundation and owner of the Tom of Finland Company.
Tom liked to use his friends as models for his drawings. On the left is one of many drawings featuring Durk. On the right is Tom's friend Aarno who was Tom's favorite model for the ideal leatherman.
QUOTATIONS FROM TOM OF FINLAND
"I know my little 'dirty drawings' are never going to hang in the main salons of the Louvre, but it would be nice if - I would like to say 'when,' but I better say 'if' - our world learns to accept all the different ways of loving. Then maybe I could have a place in one of the smaller side rooms." - 1991
"In those days, a gay man was made to feel nothing but shame about his feelings and his sexuality. I wanted my drawings to counteract that, to show gay men being happy and positive about who they were. Oh, I didn't sit down to think this all out carefully. But I knew - right from the start - that my men were going to be proud and happy men!"
"I almost never draw a completely naked man. He has to have at least a pair of boots or something on. To me, a fully dressed man is more erotic than a naked one. A naked man is, of course beautiful, but dress him in black leather or a uniform - ah, then he is more than beautiful, then he is sexy!"
"...I named what I thought was an enormous sum. Without blinking an eye, he gathered up my life work and handed me the amount I asked for: $70... I didn't expect more. Remember that homosexuality was forbidden in most of the Western world; so all those businesses were illegal, black market. I knew that they wouldn't have paid me more anyway - or so I believed then."
"The abstract, especially in those rough sketches, is very important to me, perhaps because of my advertising background, where layout is so important. Sometimes those first few lines cut the paper into such satisfying shapes that I don't want to go on, but I always do, adding nostrils and nipples and bootstraps until I have filled the paper up as usual."
MATTERS OF SIZE
"Cock size doesn't matter to me. I didn't start doing those gigantic cocks until the censors let the magazines publish full frontal nudity. I had to come up with something you couldn't get in a photograph. So those big cocks are all for the other guys - I'm an ass man myself."
"Whenever I was depressed or disgusted, I would feel him, that spirit inside, urging me back to living, back to drawing, I believe there is a lot to the world that can't be seen or touched, and if you turn away from that - especially if you are an artist - you are avoiding an important part of life, maybe the very heart of it."
"My drawings are primarily meant for guys who may have experienced misunderstanding and oppression and feel that they have somehow failed in their lives. I want to encourage them. I want to encourage this minority group, to tell them not to give up, to think positively about their act and whole being." - 1990
INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK SARFATI
"My whole life long I have done nothing but interpret my dreams of ultimate masculinity, and draw them." - published in Rebel
"In those days, a gay man was made to feel nothing but shame about his feelings and his sexuality. I wanted my drawings to counteract that, to show gay men being happy and positive about who they were. Oh, I didn't sit down to think this all out carefully. But I knew - right from the start - that my men were going to be proud and happy men!" - Tom of Finland
Tom of Finland, rough sketch, 1983, 16 9/16" x 11 3/4", graphite on paper.
In 1984, the non-profit Tom of Finland Foundation was established by Durk Dehner and his friend Touko Laaksonen a.k.a. Tom of Finland. As Tom had established worldwide recognition as the master of homo-erotic art, the Foundation's original purpose was to preserve his vast catalog of work. Several years later the scope was widened to offer a safe haven for all erotic art in response to rampant discrimination against art that portrayed sexual behavior or generated a sexual response. Today the Foundation continues in its efforts of educating the public as to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Bruce Davis selected this Tom of Finland drawing to be added to the Museum's permanent collection and exhibited in their 1997 "Master Drawings" show. ?
?Unlike many artists, Tom of Finland's work has always been appreciated by a grass-roots audience as his work was first seen in commercial settings such as magazine illustration, posters and advertising. From the perspective of art historians, Tom's work had an effect on global culture unmatched by that of virtually any other artist. Tom's work had a defining impact on the way gay men throughout the world were perceived and more importantly, how they perceived themselves. Tom's work has, therefore, had a ripple effect throughout gay and straight culture during the last 40 years, influencing lifestyle, political tolerance, design, fashion and art.
One of the primary goals of the Foundation is to promote Tom's work along with other erotic art so that it receives the academic attention it deserves. From a critical perspective, thanks in part to the sustained commitment of the Foundation, Tom's art is now beginning to receive the acknowledgment it merits. The Finnish Museum of Contemporary Art was the first to make a progressive move in its 1991 acquisition of three Tom of Finland works. In 1997 Tom's work was acquired by two more major museums: The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Actively promoted by the Foundation, Tom's work is increasingly being shown in galleries worldwide. A recent well-received exhibition at the Mark Moore Gallery in Santa Monica, California established this blue-chip gallery as the official representative for sales of Tom's work in the contemporary art world.
The Foundation is a non-profit organization, a 501(c)(3) Educational Archive: #95-406-5795, supported by donations from the public, various fund-raising events and dues from its loyal membership. The men and women who support our efforts and goals dedicate themselves both financially and as volunteers enabling the Foundation to present an impressive number of activities on a limited budget.
The Tom of Finland Company exists as a separate entity from the Foundation. The Company was first established by Tom and Durk to oversee the publication of his work and to eliminate the problem of widespread piracy of his images. In order to further the goal of supporting both Tom's art and the art of other erotic artists, the Company initiated and funded the Tom of Finland Foundation and continues to provide free publicity and frequent donations to further its aims.
The Foundation has produced three Tom of Finland Retrospectives. The latest features the finest representation of his work yet with a foreword by noted photographer Bruce Weber and an essay by former Whitney Museum curator Richard Marshall.
In recent years, the Foundation has rapidly expanded its Permanent Collection through donations of all manner of erotic artworks, by artists of all genders and sexual orientations. In addition, a growing archive of images by other artists to complement the extensive one of Tom's work is in progress. These archives provide an invaluable resource to curators, students, art historians and collectors.
To support and encourage emerging erotic artists the Foundation produces a bi-annual contest which provides exhibition of their work, publicity and awards. The promotion and sale of both new and established artists is facilitated through the "Erotic Art Gallery by Mail." The work represented ranges from unknown artists to classic images by Tom, Don Bachardy, Robert Mapplethorpe and more. The project's success has exceeded expectations in providing a place to expand the commercial value and exposure of erotic art.
The Foundation hosts social events throughout the year to raise funds and to provide a sense of community for supporters of erotic art. An example is the annual "Tom's Bar" which promotes and exhibits erotic art in a very popular party setting and raises funds to support the Foundation's activities at the same time. The rapidly growing "Erotic Art Weekend" brings together artists and patrons from many parts of the globe. It provides them with a social environment in which to network, opportunities to explore the archives and most importantly, the opportunity to buy and sell works at the two-day Erotic Art Fair.
In a tradition that goes back 1,000 years, "pillow books" were given to couples at marriage to teach them how to pleasure each other. ??Silk pillow painting, early Twentieth Century, 11" x 11 1/2", donated to the permanent collection by Cathie Bagwell.
An example of the new work the Foundation supports and exhibits through its Emerging Erotic Artist Contests. ??Aaron Holliday, "Gay Hunter", 1997, 19" x 24", graphite on paper, on loan to the Foundation.
The Foundation archives include all types of art including this 1950's era physique photograph. ??Al Urban, 1952, 8" x 10" photograph, donated to the permanent collection by the Doan Family Foundation.
THE MUSEUM OF EROTIC ARTOne of the Foundation's future goals is to establish a permanent Museum of Erotic Art that will display a stimulating range of work in a setting suitable to the importance it deserves. This goal is at the top of the Foundation's priorities now that Tom's work is being accepted by established museums. The realization of this goal will require the support of all who have an interest in erotic art, whether for personal satisfaction or to promote tolerance and freedom of expression. With your support the Foundation will promote a deeper, healthier and more tolerant appreciation of human sexuality by opening an exhibition of erotic art that will never close: our Museum.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELPA Note from the President ??Continued support from individuals such as yourself is crucial to the Foundation's survival and continued growth. Visible community support will greatly aid our volunteers in attracting corporate contributions and successfully applying for grants. Every dollar contributed and new membership will ensure the future protection of your right to view whatever art you choose.
Donations of all sizes are always welcome, including networking with your friends and business contacts to encourage further support. Donations can be earmarked for specific purposes, such as recent donations which will go directly to our Museum fund.
The Foundation's greatest sustenance, however, comes from our loyal members and volunteers. Only by having a committed and active membership can we feel secure that our promise to uphold the goals of the Foundation will be sustained for posterity. Several levels of membership are available so that everyone may participate.
Aside from providing support, members create a sense of community and camaraderie with others who share their interests. As a member you will receive the Foundation's quarterly "Dispatch" newsletter which will keep you informed of all Foundation activities and events with in-depth articles on a wide range of erotic artists, updates on new acquisitions to our permanent collection and our ever increasing library of international erotic artists past and present. Members also receive discounts on event admissions and Foundation merchandise.
Finally, with our growing roster of activities, volunteers are more important than ever. In the future we hope to expand our activities to new areas throughout the world. All volunteers are welcome and will find whatever work they may be asked to do stimulating and a great way to socialize and network. We especially need volunteers with specialized skills in marketing, fund-raising, design, gallery installation, art history/archiving and museum studies.
As a founder of the Tom of Finland Foundation, I want to give you my personal assurance that our dedication to the cause of preserving erotic art and educating the general public as to its importance is both intense and unending. I look forward to working together with you and the many others who will help strengthen and expand the vision I established with Tom of Finland into the next century.
Right about what I do.
Right about im insperation - tom of finland and others....
Compare my work against his Talk about legil aspects where bdsm is ilegil and photography can brake this, this is the reason for me drawing my work or with pictures with my self wearing a mask..
(outcome being that there is vast improvements to be made to my work but due to having my interests in this area this is something I can perfect over time.)