Tom of Finland — a man who stood at the origins of modern gay aestheticsBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/article/tom-of-finland-a-man-who-stood-at-the-origins-of-modern-gay-aesthetics.html
Strong kissing guys in leather uniforms, hugging policemen and bikers caressing each other — not only representatives of the gay community, but also most Internet users are familiar with these stories. But, despite the popularity of these images, very few people know the name of their author — "Tom from Finland".
(Careful! The content of the article was not approved by Milonov, nicknamed Gustav).
Touko Valio Laaksonen, a man who left a powerful mark on modern pop culture and gay aesthetics in particular, was born in 1920 in Finland, in the city of Kaarin, 160 km from Helsinki. The boy grew up in an intelligent family, where music, literature and painting were held in high esteem.
But most of all, young Tuoko was attracted to drawing — the boy devoted almost all his free time to this activity. Like many peers, the future artist visited the fronts of the Second World War, after which the question became before him — what to do in this life.
Laaksonen wanted his profession to be related to fine art, so he got a job as an art director at a local advertising agency. But the work, even closely echoing with his favorite thing, did not fascinate the guy as much as his hobby.
In his free time from advertising, Tuoko drew erotic illustrations from the life of homosexuals, drawing ideas from his own imagination. For a long time, the artist did not show his unusual drawings to anyone, working "on the table".
Laaksonen's first experience of working with magazines appeared only in 1957 — he sent a series of illustrations to the pornographic gay publication Physique Picture. Tuoko's works were liked by the readers of the magazine, but they did not bring him recognition.
Things were even worse in the artist's homeland. He could not publish because of the ban on same-sex relationships, which was lifted only in 1971. When the law infringing on the rights of people with non-traditional orientation was abolished, Laaksonen was 51 years old and his work was never known to anyone in Finland.
The artist could not realize himself in his homeland even after the legalization of same—sex relations - the ban on any propaganda of homosexual relations was in effect in the country for another year after his death, until 1999. Things were quite different abroad, namely in the USA.
In 1978, Tuoko organized his first solo exhibition in America. His shocking works were seen by 26-year-old Dirk Dener, who immediately wrote the artist a letter inviting him to come to Los Angeles. Laaksonen agreed and came to the west coast, where the gay movement was particularly developed.
Dirk Dehner became a business partner, publicist, best friend and lover for the artist for many years. It was this man who, after Tuoko's death, headed the Tom of Finland Foundation, whose headquarters are located in Los Angeles, which once enthusiastically received Laaksonen.
Almost all his life the artist worked under the pseudonym Tom of Finland, but the Finns did not immediately begin to be proud of him. Inside the country, where same—sex relationships have been taboo for a long time, they could not immediately step over the traditions, but they realized that Tuoko art is an excellent export product.
First of all, the works of the master of homo-eroticism appeared on the postage stamps of the Finnish company Itella Posti. It was the first experience in the world of publishing stories of this kind on such products. Many people did not like the innovation. Russian MP Vitaly Milonov, known for his aggressive behavior towards gays, called for a ban on stamps with gays in Russia, but could not offer a mechanism for carrying out such an action.
The work of "Tom from Finland" has played a huge role in modern culture, and not only homosexual. In the late 70s, Rob Mapplethorpe, a well-known photographer and propagandist of homoerotic art, drew attention to Tuoko's work. The two artists met and became friends, but their collaboration did not last long — Rob began to deceive the gullible Finn and they fell out.
Another well-known personality in pop culture who has come under the influence of Tom of Finland's creativity is Freddie Mercury. Many of the stage images of the Queen soloist are accurately copied from the characters of the artist's paintings. Leather caps and trousers, wide suspenders, a naked torso and emphasized masculinity — Laaksonen codes were easily recognized in all this.
He used the images of Tom of Finland and Glenn Hughes, a dancer from the Village People group. Glenn chose for himself the image of a brutal biker and even bequeathed to bury himself in a stage costume. The popular band Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the 80s, consisting of five guys, used leather clothes and mesh T-shirts during performances, which are present in many paintings by the Finnish illustrator.
A number of productions and films are dedicated to the Finnish artist. The most famous of them are the musical performance Tom of Finland: Musical (2017), which was created by the best screenwriters and composers of Finland, and the feature film Tom of Finland directed by Dom Karukoski, shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in the same year.
Despite the fact that the attitude towards representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation has improved in many countries, including in the artist's homeland, there are still many places where you can seriously suffer for such illustrations.