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Gay Art Yearbook Pays Tribute to Tom of Finland

by Xavier van Beesd in Theatre, Art & Expo , 01 maart 2019

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 6 minutes


The first issue of “Mein schwules Auge” (My Gay Eye) was published in 2003. It is an annual full of entertaining, but also stimulating gay erotic stories that are presented together with an exquisite selection of equally exciting male art and photography.

From the third edition on, “Mein schwules Auge” is edited by the journalist and writer Axel Schock in collaboration with the artist Rinaldo Hopf.

Schock, born in 1965, has been working as an openly gay journalist for years, not only for general newspapers, but also for gay magazines, such as “Hinnerk.” In addition, he has published a large number of books, including “Out!,” in which eight hundred famous gays, lesbians and bisexuals are portrayed, and “Out im Kino,” which discusses about a thousand feature films and documentaries from all ages and genres with a gay or lesbian theme. He also wrote a book about the Berlin porn producer Cazzo Film, which appeared in 2000.

Rinaldo Hopf (1955) is an established artist, also in the Netherlands. In 2004, he showed his “Golden Nudes” at Galerie Faubourg in Amsterdam, and ten years later, he had the one-man exhibition “Posing for Karma” at Gallery MooiMan in Groningen.

In 2017, he was Artist-in-Residence at the Tom House in Los Angeles, the house where Tom of Finland lived during the last decade of his life. There, the heritage of Tom of Finland is kept alive, and the house can be described as a permanent tribute to the amazing oeuvre of the artist and his radical vision of unapologetic homoerotic sexuality.

Even before Hopf lived in Tom House, a collector had donated the portrait he once made of Tom to the house, where it is prominently displayed in the staircase. He had been an admirer of Tom’s work from an early age, as he admits in an interview: “When I first discovered his Kake booklets in a porn shop, they excited me very much. I used them as jerk-off magazines. I am obsessed with big cocks and that’s exactly what Tom offered. Slowly I discovered the artistic value beyond the sexual content - just like many others.”

Hopf’s admiration for Tom’s work and his stay at Tom’s last residence, will certainly have contributed to the fact that the fourteenth edition of “Mein schwules Auge” is entirely dedicated to the Finnish master. It is the first edition of the yearbook, which is entirely bilingual (German and English). The 400 page book, published by Konkursbuch in Tübingen, contains works by more than 120 artists and writers from around the world.

The editors found it important to build a bridge between the continents of Europe and America and the twin cities of Berlin and Los Angeles. This issue can be seen as an exploration of the history, development and influence of the artist Tom of Finland through both homages and critiques. It also showcases the enormous wealth of erotic art and culture that is being conserved, protected and promoted by the Tom of Finland Foundation, founded in 1984.

Tom of Finland was born on May 8, 1920 as Touko Valio Laaksonen in south-western Finland. His parents were both working in education. Around the age of twenty, he started making erotic drawings, which were mainly inspired by the laborers he had admired since his childhood. Initially, he kept these drawings to himself, but by the time he had to go into the army he even destroyed them. After the war, however, he picked up his old hobby again. An important influence on Tom’s development was his introduction to the work of the American painter George Quaintance (1902-1957) in the pages of “Physique Pictorial.”

This magazine was first published in 1951 and edited by photographer Bob Mizer. The basis of this magazine consisted of photographs of attractive, slightly muscled young men, whose noble parts were covered by a “posing strap.” Often, the models were also in antique, mythological costumes. Through these measures, the censors could be convinced that the magazine contributed to the knowledge of the history and mythology of Western civilization.

The painter Quaintance, who himself was a passionate body-builder, largely adapted to this visual language. In his paintings he immortalized muscular young men against a “mythological” background - from the Wild West to a classic Roman bathhouse (at least according to the title, because whoever looks at the painting will find that it as well may be a male swimming pool in Quaintance’s America).

Even though the censorship rules and “good morals” of those days did not allow a wide distribution of “Physique Pictorial,” the magazine was available in some European capitals from the mid-1950s. When friends showed Touko several copies of the magazine in 1955 or 1956, a new world opened up for him. “I couldn’t believe my eyes! How could someone [Quaintance] paint pictures of handsome males so naturalistically! I wanted to learn to do something like that!,” he later stated.

Although he obviously had some initial doubts as to whether he could follow in the footsteps of Quaintance, he committed himself to his new goal in 1956 and sent some drawings to Mizer, which were promptly accepted. Mizer also thought of the pseudonym, as Touko Laaksonen was unpronounceable for American tongues and, moreover, a certain degree of anonymity in those days was certainly no unnecessary luxury. In the spring of 1957, “Physique Pictorial” appeared with a drawing by Tom on the cover, and from then on, his career took an unprecedented flight.

Over the years, he has of course inspired many other artists. In the collection of the Tom of Finland Foundation, one can find works by many artists who, in one way or another, had a connection with Tom. In an interview with Jamison Karon, Rinaldo Hopf told him that during his stay in the Tom House he often subjected the collection to a closer examination at night: “In the drawers of the library I found a wild mix of artwork, from posters and prints to original drawings, from sweet amateur fantasies to masterpieces.”

When the plans for the theme issue dedicated to Tom of Finland were made, it was clear to him that he wanted to include many of these works in the book. He worked on the selection together with Durk Dehner of the Tom of Finland Foundation: “He is so passionate about the art and has stories about every artist and every single piece in the collection! He told me about the friendships and love affairs between many of the artists, and we both agreed that this would be a main focus of the selection: the connections.”

Apart from works by other artists, “My Gay Eye” also includes a larger selection of Tom’s work. “It starts with Tom’s work process: the collages he did with found images from newspapers and magazines and preparatory sketches. (...) Durk came up with the idea to feature examples of all the techniques Tom used, from taking his own reference photos, to pen and ink drawings, to the absolutely finished masterworks,” Hopf notes.

After this look at Tom’s work, the tributes by other artists and writers follow: “We gave several writers a choice of Tom drawings to choose from to develop their own stories.” Among these chosen authors is the German comic artist Ralf König. The most inviting part, however, of this issue of “My Gay Eye” remains the large selection of art and photographs. The enthusiast can enjoy works by photographers, from Peter Berlin to Jim French (Colt Studios), painters from George Quaintance to Rinaldo Hopf, and draftsmen from Tom of Finland to Japanese Gengoroh Tagame. In addition, works by contemporary artists, such as Stuart Sandford, Florian Hetz, Slava Mogutin, and “outsider artists” Rex and The Hun, who took Tom’s iconography a step further, have also been included.


Rinaldo Hopf & Axel Schock (red.), Mein schwules Auge / My Gay Eye: Das Jahrbuch der schwulen Erotik 14/15: Tom of Finland Foundation Special, Tübingen: konkursbuch Verlag, 2018, 400 pages., ISBN 9783887699444, in Holland a.o. available at Galerie MooiMan, Groningen, www.mooi-man.nl.
  



 





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