[TOUR] Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles

Located in the quaint and cozy back streets of Echo Park in Los Angeles, the Tom of Finland Foundation is not so much a gay mecca as it is a mecca of sexuality and a celebration of desire. The house – an early craftsman built in 1910 – was purchased by Durk Dehner in the late 70s. After Durk met Touko Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), the house became their sanctuary and the attic became Touko’s private studio. The house also became a safe haven for art with homosexual overtones when AIDS was painted as a gay disease. Today, the home is full of Tom of Finland’s distinctive black and white illustrations of buxom men with their muscles glistening and members bulging. Even though Tom of Finland died a little more than twenty years ago, his room is virtually the same – with his boots propped up and a smudge of ash still in the ashtray. We were fortunate to be given a tour of the foundation by its vice-president and curator S.R. Sharp who took us on an extensive journey that started with the entry drawing room and ended in the backyard – dubbed Pleasure Park – where palm trees swayed and Los Angeles sparkled under a crepuscular sky. Text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper