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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.

DISPATCH AUTUMN 2003

the timeliness of tom

It fascinates me to observe contemporary culture and note how vital the work of Tom of Finland remains within that culture. Since his death in 1991 there have been some highs and lows in Tomís popularity, but having been involved with his work for two and a half decades, its encouraging to note that, now, rather than waning, his popularity appears to be expanding into new, hitherto unimagined realms. An expansive portfolio spanning six decades, Tomís work has clearly withstood the test of time.

I read a posting on the Internet recently from a young "stud" declaring that Tom and his work belongs to all those who love well-defined, virile men, and not to the leather fetish community. He was right to claim Tom's work as his own, but shortsighted in not realizing that Tomís work really belongs to everyone.

Tom is identified with the leather community inasmuch as he was part of that brotherhood, fostering them and fostered by them over the decades. He has also been embraced by other parts of society, and not exclusively the male gay community. Lesbians treasure his drawings for their iconic value while hyper-masculine heterosexuals identify with Tomís alpha males and hetero women find his men exactly the type that they fantasize having wild unbridled sex with.

I know many Europeans who visited California in search of CHP and LAPD motorcycle patrol officers because of the idealized renderings of these men in uniform and their shiny machines that Tom did throughout the 1980s. Tom used to joke that the New York and Los Angeles police departments should hire him to redesign their uniforms to be more "body conscious," so that they might convey the same power, sexiness, and authority that Tomís cops project.

Tom of Finland will continue to infiltrate the mainstream and influence the cultural zeitgeist. Over the next year a new era of Tom of Finland merchandising, licensed by The Tom of Finland Foundation, enters the marketplace, providing much-needed royalties to fund Foundation activities and programs.

"Rebel 001," the first Tom of Finland action figure is now in stores, the first in an anticipated series of collectibles modeled after Tomís iconic men. Taschen Books plans an ambitious, large-scale follow-up to its highly successful Tom of Finland: The Art of Pleasure, and other merchandise includes greeting cards, bed linens, towels, napkins, underwear, sportswear, belt and boot buckles, and au courant t-shirts!

For fine-art lovers, a new generation of limited-edition, signed and numbered artist prints have been released, while Tomís original sketches and drawings are highly coveted by a new generation of collectors. Daddy and the Muscle Academy, the definitive 1990 documentary, completed the year before Tom's death, has just been released on DVD with additional footage not included in the theatrical release. In one segment, Tom states that his drawings are meant to send a message to all those who feel alienated from mainstream society, to let them know that they are fine, that they are part of a larger community where people are comfortable and empowered by their sexuality.

Tom of Finland's artwork continues to grow in popularity. This piece -- a 1988 original pencil study -- was made available for purchase for the first time at the 2003 Los Angeles Erotic Art Weekend and now can be seen at "Tom for the Holidays".
(Signed, 11.75" x 8.25")

Touko Laaksonen, the man we know as Tom of Finland, was a typically fiery man from the north. Like all visionaries, he was slightly ahead of†his†time.

But†times†change,†and†Tomís†time†has†arrived.

   ó Durk Dehner


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ENCOURAGEMENT
"My drawings are primarily meant for guys who may have experienced misunderstanding and oppression and feel that they have somehow failed in their lives. I want to encourage them. I want to encourage this minority group, to tell them not to give up, to think positively about their act and whole being." (1990) — Tom of Finland