“His mission was to spread joy and spread that sense of freedom of expression.”
It can be hard to remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when depictions of gay men were exceedingly rare. Tom of Finland was a Finnish artist who was well known for his underground erotic drawings of men, which he made from the 1940s until his death in 1991. The drawings — which were illicit for most of his lifetime, as being gay was illegal in Finland until 1971 — also inspired the aesthetic foundation for modern popular gay culture, depicting men in roles that were forbidden at the time in various ways, whether it was serving in the military or having an open relationship.
“Tom’s mission was to spread joy and spread that sense of freedom of expression,” said Durk Dehner, one of the cofounders of Tom of Finland Foundation.
Tom’s drawings were not merely products of his imagination; part of their appeal lay in their intimate expressions, which were drawn from reference photos that Tom took of hundreds of men over the years.
Dehner, along with his partner S.R. Sharp, spoke with BuzzFeed News, about Tom’s long legacy and the current exhibition of his photographs and reference material that is on view at Fotografiska in New York in The Darkroom.
Can you talk a little bit about the Tom of Finland Foundation and how that’s working now to like promote his legacy?
Sharp: We’ve always worked with other artists through emerging erotic artists contests, through art fairs that we’ve done in New York and Los Angeles, and we have drawing workshops here on a monthly basis. We’re all about other artists. That has been our mission almost since the very, very beginning of the Foundation in 1984.
Published: 9th June 2021Tags: #TomOfFinland101, BuzzFeed, Kate Bubacz, Sexology 101, The Darkroom
Categorised in: News