Not all heroes wear capes, some just paint erotic pictures of buff men in leather.
Tom of Finland was an artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who flipped art and queer culture on its head with his radical depiction of hyper-masculine homosexuality.
Born in 1920, Touko Laaksonen, who would later take the pen name Tom of Finland, got his start as most gay men do; ogling muscular neighborhood farm boys and crying softly into a pillow at the sheer beauty. From a young age, he showed promise as an artist. That promise, however, would be put on hold when he was drafted into WWII.
All was not lost.
Tom began secret affairs with men on BOTH SIDES of the war. Aside from living his don’t-ask-don’t-tell fantasy, Tom was fueling his passion and appreciation of masculine men and the beauty that they hold.
After the war and throughout the 50’s and on into early 90’s, Tom of Finland tore 👏🏻 it 👏🏻up 👏🏻.
His “photorealistic” beefcake artwork shook society to its core. When looking at his art, note the exaggerated physical features -- the almost visual movements of the subjects. Never before have men been depicted in this way and for the sole purpose of being sexualized by other men. Moreover, the world was learning that beauty can be found everywhere out of both barrels.
The 70’s to early 90’s saw Tom’s work go mainstream. His success and dedication to his craft gave him the courage he needed to quit his day job at McCann-Erickson, an international advertising firm. Tom said that since that point he lived in jeans and lived on his drawings *hold for envious sigh *.
Taboo and legal though it may have been, Tom was living off his art and educating as many people as he could along the way. It was his mission to not only do what he loved but show others the beauty can be found everywhere by everyone.
Toward the end of his life, Tom, with the help of his friend Durk Dehner, established the Tom of Finland Foundation. At its initial inception in 1984, the Foundation was meant to act as a catalog to preserve Tom’s works. It has since evolved to encompass all forms of art that elicit a sexual response or are erotic in nature. The Foundation is following in Tom’s footsteps by educating the public about tolerance of sexuality, the cultural implications of erotic art, and the importance of studying sexuality.
One of the many ways the Foundation is fulfilling Tom’s Legacy is through two of my favorite things; wine and naked men.
Tom of Finland wine “is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah that makes for a pleasurable experience worthy of the artist” with Tom’s artwork as the label. So if your not a wino like me, all those ingredients sound like some of the 23 flavors in Dr. Pepper. Just know that it's a delicious full-bodied red blend for a good cause which is just about all the reason you need to drink, right?
With every purchase, a portion of the proceeds goes to the Foundation promoting human rights and sexual expression through art.
Heroes don’t need to fly in to save Lois Lane. They just need to stand tall in their convictions and live in the beauty of truth. Tom of Finland showed us that beauty is everywhere and he did it all without a cape.
Ok, maybe an artist smock…