September 25, 2018 at 3:22 pm PST | by John Paul King
Tom of Finland Art and Culture Fest unleashes Queer Erotica on LA

“Richard,” photo by Tom of Finland Foundation resident artist Phuc Le, is among the work of over 60 artists to be featured at the 23rd Annual Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival (Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation).

When it comes to Queer Erotic Art, few artists cast a larger shadow than Tom of Finland.

Born Touko Laaksonen (in Finland, obviously), his anatomically-idealized representations of the male form were first introduced to the world through his illustrations in Physique Pictorial in the 1950s and went on to become iconic; hyper-masculine, overtly sexual, and usually depicted in leather or other fetish gear, the men in his drawings helped to define an important aesthetic of gay male culture throughout the mid- and late-20th Century and remains a potent influence to this day.

As many gay Angelenos know – at least those who are involved in the leather and fetish communities – Tom’s legacy is maintained here in L.A. through the “Tom House,” the Echo Park home where the late artist lived and worked for the last decade of his life, and which is now headquarters to the Tom of Finland Foundation.   This historical and cultural landmark serves as a museum, gallery, and cultural center devoted to the Foundation’s mission of “protecting, preserving, and promoting erotic art.”

As a platform in furthering that mission, one of the key public events initiated and run by the Tom of Finland Foundation is the Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival, an annual art fair which will convene for its 23rd incarnation at Tom House on October 6-7.  Over 60 Queer artists will be featured, including Seth Bogart, Hector Silva, and the late Michael Kirwan.

This year’s theme for the festival is “Eye on Collecting,” and its programming will focus on the purposeful commitment of collecting art.

“What better way to say ‘thank you’ to an artist than investing in his vision?” says Durk Dehner, president and cofounder of Tom of Finland Foundation.  “A review in a magazine, or a comment left, is definitely a way to show support – but to buy something by them is the ultimate way of acknowledging them.  At the Festival you find what represents you, and you then get to share the artwork in your home with your friends – the gratitude is circulated.”

The theme is also intended to celebrate of the release of a new book, “My Gay Eye (Mein schwules Auge),” a special Tom of Finland Foundation edition which spotlights the work of numerous important queer erotic artists – many of whom will be represented at the Festival with works available for sale.

Some of these will be included within the Rubén Esparza Curatorial, which will be showing Marcel Alcala, Amina Cruz, Cleonette Harris, Peter Kalisch, Naruki Kukita, Bruce LaBruce, Slava Mogutin, Gio Black Peter, Oliver Sarley, Phil Tarley and Jon Vaz Gar; others will be represented in Rick Castro’s Dungeon, which will feature John Blackburn, Sierra Domino, Paul Mahler and Joel-Peter Witkin.

Drawings by Miguel Angel Reyes are among the work of over 60 artists to be featured at the 23rd Annual Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival (Courtesy Tom of Finland Foundation).

The festival is not just about visual art, though.  Literature will also be celebrated.  Special guest artist Slava Mogutin, a photographer, poet and Russian dissident, will read and be on hand to sign books.  In addition, poet and educator Steven Reigns has invited other notable authors to share their written words on Saturday, including author Clint Catalyst and performance artist Ron Athey.

There will also be a preview of Secret Gay Box, curated by John Wolf.  An expansive history of “Queerness embodied in a menagerie of objects from across time,” the show features works by Brian Andrew, Patrick Angus, Paul Cadmus, Hossein Edalatkhah, Don Joint, Mike Kuchar, Joseph La Piana, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jose Gonzalo Garcia Munoz, Justin Olerud, Stuart Sandford, Matt Siegle, Andy Warhol and David Wojnarowicz.

Other attractions include:

Drawings by Silvia Prada from her recently released artist book, “Tom,” developed in collaboration with Tom of Finland Foundation.

A series of photographs by Daniel Trese taken at the Foundation in 2014, showcased in conjunction with his exhibition “Surface Streets” at Tom of Finland Store.

A booth by Los Angeles’ Lethal Amounts, showcasing their collaborations with artists and musicians on subversive and counter culture themes.

Works by Jeremy Lucido, photographer and publisher of Starrfucker, featuring zines as art.

Works by resident artist Phuc Le will display his photography.

Works by Josh Paul Thomas, whose photography is the cover for “My Gay Eye,” and who works across multiple mediums.

Previews of upcoming exhibitions by artists Miguel Angel Reyes, Jess Scott, and Stefan Pinto.

A live auction on Sunday which will allow attendees to bid on classic Homoerotica.

A Saturday night screening of “Born to Raise Hell” (1974), a time-honored film which has been the standard by which all Gay S/M films are judged around the world.  It will be introduced by writer and director, Roger Earl, who received the Tom of Finland Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

Finally, for those with an interest in creating a little art of their own, Miguel Angel Reyes will direct life drawing sessions from 12pm-2pm on both days.

Visitors who want a little break from the artistic attractions can get their footgear shined and benefit from expert hair and facial grooming.  There will also be food and beverage offered throughout the day.

Anyone who has been to the Tom House can tell you that a visit there is always a treat.  When it plays host to an important cultural and artistic event such as this one, it’s guaranteed to be a stimulating – and sexy – adventure.

“Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festival: Eye on Collecting,” Oct 6-7, Tom of Finland Foundation’s Tom House, 1421 Laveta Terrace, Los Angeles, CA 90026.

$10 Each day- Eventbrite (tomsfoundation.eventbrite.com) and at door.

For a complete list of participating artists, schedule and more information visit here.

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