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Tom Of Finland - Life And Work Of A Gay Hero

by Brian Callaghan
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Wednesday Jul 17, 2013
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In 1988, three years before his death from emphysema, acclaimed gay erotic artist Tom of Finland collaborated on a coffee table book about his life and artwork. Twenty-five years later the book "Tom of Finland - Life and Work of a Gay Hero", has been expanded and re-released, offering an even more complete version of the story behind the man, his experiences and influences.

The book contains many examples of the hyper-masculine men who became the signature of Tom’s work. While he first started drawing handsome men as a kid, as the years progressed, the nudity, kink and carnal activities grew more extreme as well. The shirtless men of Tom’s world are mesomorphs of muscle, and the bulges in their crotches look like they’re smuggling cantelopes out of the supermarket. When those phallic appendages are released from their jeans or leather pants, they aren’t merely the size of the proverbial "baby’s arm" but the size of actual babies.

The book traces Tom’s conservative childhood as the son of schoolteachers, his teen fantasies about farm workers toiling in the summer sun, and how his native Finland was plunged into the horrors of World War II just as he was entering adulthood. By the time the war ended, Tom was a mature adult man who began to produce his self-proclaimed "dirty pictures" with a new energy and focus.

The Finnish artist once called himself the Norman Rockwell of gay erotica, but the exaggerated sexuality of his drawings remind this reviewer more of the work of cartoonist Robert Crumb.

The text, photos and drawings in the book shows the progression of Tom’s work. His early pencil portraits show shirtless, masculine men in leather, military uniforms, cowboy gear, boots, leather caps, and on motorcycles. They are sexy but not initially sexual, but with each passing year, his work got increasingly explicit, until the 1970s and 80s when it became no holds (or holes!) barred pornographic art -- albeit pornography that has now found a home in some of the world’s most respected museums.

The Finnish artist once called himself the Norman Rockwell of gay erotica, but the exaggerated sexuality of his drawings remind this reviewer more of the work of cartoonist Robert Crumb. Crumb’s cartoons feature enormous breasted women with asses the size of Oregon, but his drawings are mostly comic in nature. Tom’s drawings feature mega-endowed gay men with huge penii, and asses that look like two basketballs side by side, but they’re completely sexual, not comic, in nature.

Fans of erotic art and hyper-manly men will likely enjoy this massive 256-page tome, which traces not only Tom’s art, but also gay history of the 20th century, from the forbidden shadows of the 1940s and 50s to the modern gay liberation era.

"Tom of Finland - Life and Work of a Gay Hero"
F. Valentine Hooven III
Bruno Gmuender Verlag GmbH
$89.99
www.tomoffinlandfoundation.org

by F. Valentine Hooven III

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