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

DISPATCH WINTER 2002

The Long Hot Weekend
L.A. EROTIC ART FAIR 2002

The Tom of Finland Foundation took the chill out of Los Angeles’s fall weather and put a blush into its seasonably gray October skies with its Eighth Annual Erotic Art Weekend, October 11-13, three days of drama, desire, and drawing—sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland, Smirnoff and Frontiers magazine.

With far-flung participants in from France, Spain, Portugal, and Peru, and visiting “local” legends—such as Miami Beach's redoubtable Michael Kirwan—Friday evening's Artist Reception at Foundation Headquarters kicked things off with a lively mix of old and new school art sensibilities seasoned with just enough reform school sensibility to keep the guests cognizant that they were not attending a mixer at nearby MoCA.

Bill  “The Hun” Schmeling notes his art tattooed on Michael Loranger. Photo credit: Dietmar

Artists such as Celso Junior, in from Lisbon, Benoit Prevot from Paris, and Palanca from the lofty heights of Lima, arrived well in advance of the weekend, amusing themselves absorbing the energies and textures of the former Spanish “ciudad,” a city of orange groves transformed into a cosmopolis of flesh and fantasy in little more than a century. There was certainly no shortage of flesh or fantasy at the overflow reception: amiable diorama-maker Ross Johnston of DeForest, Wisconsin’s rubbed elbows with Minneapolis’ shameless Marc DeBauch; San Francisco’s “sexpressionist painter” Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba and an endless line of admirers chatted up Portland, Oregon’s venerable iconoclast Bill Schmeling (aka “The Hun”); and Hollywood bondage and fashion photographer Rick Castro compared f-stops with Germany’s Dietmar Konig and local up-and-comer Patrick Lee, a prior winner of the Foundation’s Emerging Erotic Artist Contest.

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Not to be outpaced by the other talent, Kirwan donned an apron, exchanging his cook’s whites for a biker’s cap only at the last minute, just in time to accept compliments for his art as well as his hors d’oeuvres. Film stars Zak Spears and Jeff Stryker, the latter in a cherry-red satin suit perfectly tailored to the devil’s advocate, drew admiring glances but it was the artists night to shine at the crowded feté. A last chance to eat, drink, and be merry before two days of “meet, greet, and make money.”

Marc DeBauch at his booth at the fair. 
Photo credit: Jay PG

[Please note the venue has changed on future fairs.] The weekend’s main event, the Erotic Art Fair, commenced the following afternoon. Over 70 artists strong, it overwhelmed Hollywood's LA Lofts (6442 Santa Monica Boulevard) with a panoply of erotica that included photography, painting, drawing, lithography, woodcarving, sculpture, metallurgy, jewelry, dioramas, digital computer graphics, comic art, and ’toons. Live figure modeling was offered for the edification of attending artists, with models ranging from an Eugene Sandow lookalike, replete with handlebar mustache, to a Sid Vicious type rife with tattoos and piercings. Patrons ranged from the eminently respectable to a gentleman wearing full-length, mirrored chaps. Artists went one-on-one with their public at individual booths, while curator Volker Morlock showed selections from the Foundation's Erotic Art Gallery that included sketches by Tom of Finland, nudes by Francesco Scavullo, Tom Bianchi, and Jim French, drawings by Don Bachardy, Goh Mishima, Rex, and Teddy of Paris, marble phallus sculpture by Marcello Lupetti, and a surprising Santa-themed watercolor by Beau.

The festivities continued apace Saturday evening at Taix Restaurant at the Erotic Art Awards Dinner, where Board Member Dan Berkowitz welcomed guests and introduced the awards presentation. Bill “The Hun” Schmeling was inducted into the Erotic Artist Hall of Fame, only the third person to be so designated, the first being Foundation founder and namesake Tom of Finland, the other being Swiss artist H. R. Giger. “I’m sure Tom of Finland is turning in his grave,” the Hun joked from the podium. “I received a note from him once, telling me to keep on keeping on. It was good advice, and I took it, just as I personally delight in coming here each year to feed off your energy.”

Publisher Benedikt Taschen, no less iconoclastic in his own right, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his prolific publishing empire and contribution to the availability and appreciation of erotic art. Foundation president Durk Dehner praised Taschen as “a sly fox” who “broke the mold,” combining “high art, quality production, and low prices to bring art to the masses.” Taschen representatives Jim Heimann and Ngozi Ola accepted for the publisher, who was in Europe on business and unable to attend. Taschen will publish a follow-up to Tom of Finland: The Art of Pleasure in 2003.

Live nude figure drawing. Photo credit: Jay PG

Attendance and sales continued to be brisk on the final day of the Fair. Early risers enjoyed “The Business of Creating and the Pleasure of Collecting Erotic Art,” a breakfast discussion with special guest, the indefatigable, newly-anointed Hall of Famer, Bill Schmeling.

You just can't keep a good Hun down.

    — Lawrence Schubert

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