Legendary queer artist Tom of Finland's house nurtures gay artists

LOS ANGELES -- The late Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland, produced thousands of illustrations featuring men wearing tight or partially removed clothing. His work has inspired artists and influenced gay culture for over six decades. Tom's legacy lives on at the Tom of Finland Foundation House in Los Angeles.

"When Tom first started creating a lot of these images, back in the 50s, there was a certain idea of what the homosexual male was," said Jamison Karon, a former artist-in-residence at the Tom House. "For him to create these super athletic, beautiful, exaggerated figures was like having our own gay little superheroes. We could see ourselves in those images and feel strong and beautiful."

"Tom House has been incredibly generous to me and to other emerging artists, especially in L.A., where it's a very tough landscape to navigate," said performance artist Marval A. Rex.

"The invitation for the foundation to start here came from Durk Dehner. Durk saw the power that Tom had and how he affected so many other people," said S.R. Sharp, VP & Curator of the Tom of Finland Foundation. "We started with emerging erotic artist contests. We've had art fairs every year. So we're always working on building the community of artists."

Through its artist residency program and events, the foundation exposes artists to archives of Tom's work, while attempting to preserve, promote and elevate erotic art. The Tom of Finland Foundation house and its archives are open to the public by appointment only.

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