In honor of what would have been the artist's 98th birthday, take the @itgetsbetter tour of the Tom of Finland House
“Is there any other artist that we ejaculate to and also have on the coffee table?” – Time Out, Chicago
May 8 marked what would have been the 98th birthday of a man who one could arguably say was the most influential--and certainly the most visible--artist in contemporary America gay culture, Touko Laaksonen, known as Tom of Finland (1920-1991).
To celebrate, the It Gets Better Project presents a video tour of the Tom of Finland House, along with a commemorative T-shirt. The tour is hosted by Official Tom of Finland Ambassador and It Gets Better Cofounder (and husband to Dan Savage),Terry Miller.
“You see Tom of Finland drawings in almost every leather bar in the United States,” says Miller in the video. You see them in tons of gay bars. It’s almost code like, here is where we are accepted. Here is where you will find a community for yourself.”
What gay man doesn’t remember the first time he saw a Tom of Finland illustration? The slim hips and bulging muscles, the lips, eyes, the groping! Hallucinogenically hyper-masculine, electrifying and jaw-dropping, they left an indelible impression. John Waters agrees.
“I think he captured what every gay man was looking for. An exaggerated man. A VERY exaggerated man. And it was the opposite of the gay man in the 50s,” he says.
While the leather/fetish scene existed in early underground gay and gay bar culture, it was Tom of Finland who provided the blueprint for many seeking to adopt the look, and who put the look on a pedestal. Frankly, Tom of Finland men where gods!
Thanks to publisher Taschen, Tom of Finland’s fantastic art can be easily collected—and worshipped--in a series of coffee table art books from “Tom of Finland: The Complete Kake Comics” to "Tom of Finland XXL." The Tachen page also provides a succinct mini-bio.
A documentary, simple titled "Tom of Finland" was released in 2017.
To commemorate Tom of Finland’s 98th birth day, the Tom of Finland Store is offering a limited-edition T-shirt. Designed by Miller, proceeds benefit the it gets better project and Tom of Finland Foundation. Buy the T-shirt and much more (like the fetching bath towel featured in the teaser image) at the Tom of Finland Store. Here's Terry Miller in the T: