Friday, January 28, 2011

the q continuum #two

*WARNING: I feel inclined to post a DISCLAIMER before this particular edition of dead (g)end(er)'s continuum series, as the content is sexually explicit (for artistic and socio-political reasons, but still). Some people may be offended by the images below, but I believe the work brings a necessarily blunt approach to sexuality in art and society.

tqc #2: Tom of Finland (may.viii.xx - n.vii.xci)
My apologies for tqc's not having been posted last Friday. It was a bit of a hectic week for all of us, but we're back at it today with a look at quite an interesting Finish artist! From the Universality of Gene Roddenberry, we spin a complete 180 degrees to the obscure and marginalized works of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland.
The next few topics of tqc are set to discuss the contemporary eclecticism of some online comics, music, and animation; but before jumping so deep into such present-day examples of progressivity, I wanted to step back and give homage to the artist who continues to make a dent in art and social politics:
Tom of Finland's works, receiving more artistic recognition since his death in 1991 than possibly ever in his lifetime, are-- at their most basic definition-- illustrations of overly masculinised subjects depicted more often than not during varying homosexual encounters.

Note how the males illustrated are exaggerated in all respects: their muscles and genitalia bulging through the seams of their clothing, their hair thick and wild.
I think the aspect of abundance is important to understand when looking at Tom's work, as he uses the theme so often. Laaksonen actually began his art career in the advertising industry (Source), learning what appeals to the eye of the buyer: pleasure in quantity and over-consumption-- 'bigger is better'.
Touko's art is a representation of pleasure, or perhaps more so 'ecstasy'; but what interests me is: what is Finland's purpose in creating such explicit images? Is it simply that after years spent hiding his sexual orientation, he then relishes in depicting his deepest homosexual fantasies? Or is there more socio-political commentary to Finland's work than meets the eye? Many people actually agree there is no other motivation than the prior; and although my opinion leans towards the latter, the motivation behind Tom's work is probably both, and more.
What particularly drives me to believe there is more behind Laaksonen's work are the drawings in which he focuses on men of authority. Finland tends to centre his work upon 'the working-man', the laborers he encountered in his rural hometown (construction workers, farmers, etc.); but several of his pieces also feature men of high military rank:
As Tom fought in World War Two, he takes influence from the sexual experiences he had during that time, but, interestingly, he created several pieces illustrating men in Nazi uniforms performing acts of homosexuality (these pieces were later hidden due to their controversy in the United States). (Source)
It is my belief that Tom's work is commenting upon his contemporary society's understanding of 'masculinity' (still relevant even in today's Western world).
Whether Touko was aware of the larger effects of his work or not, what his art manages to do is take a social paradigm like 'gender' and shove it back in its own face-- masculinity 'screwing itself,' if you will. Yes, his work is explicit and at times pornographic, but I refuse to believe that Laaksonen was merely creating a fantasy world for himself through his art.
Touko brings into question both the specific homosexual stereotypes and the view of masculinity in general. His once marginalized work has now broken through into the contemporary art world. This year Turko, Finland will be exhibiting the majority of Laaksonen's work-- besides the pieces that are on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Laaksonen has become known for creating his own comic series called 'Kake' that features a few of his favorite characters from his artwork.
Well kown punk-designer Vivienne Westwood even designd a t-shirt using one of Finland's drawings during the late 1970s:
Laaksonen's artwork should not be seen as pornographic, but artistic. We are in an age that is ready to move beyond the boundaries and walls built and handed down from our grandparents' generation.
With artists like Tom of Finland, educational, social and artistic boundaries are coming to a dead end. :)
You can see some more of Tom's work here. :)

*stay tuned for next week's edition of tqc which will take you into the dazzling neon world of the music industry's own Dan Deacon!

ps: What's with the first two subjects of tqc having both passed away in 1991? Coincidence?... Maybe. Government conspiracy?... Definitely.

1 comment:

  1. fuck the world!