At Artists Space, Tom of Finland Lusts for Jayne Mansfield

THE DAILY PIC: A pioneer of gay lust channels big breasts and wasp waists.


THE DAILY PIC (#1339): This drawing from 1964 is an early piece by Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen), the successful Finnish ad man who had a second life as a pioneer of homoerotica. Artists Space in New York has a major survey of his work, which gives a glimpse into a history of illicit longing that has now gone mainstream. (As witnessed by the survey itself.)

One of the things that struck me most strongly was how much of Tom’s lusty imagery was borrowed from straight desire. His men have pects the size of Marilyn’s breasts, nipples a pregnant woman would envy and the wasp waists of a corseted Scarlett O’Hara.

I wonder if he’s channeling natural triggers that work for both gay and straight men or if he’s plugging into desires and norms that were particular to the time and place of his coming out. Or it could also be that his imagery, which started out appealing to his gonads alone, went on to shape the urges of all the gays who came out with (and to) his pictures. (Tom of Finland Foundation, Permanent Collection)

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