Tom of Finland

Inspired by Teutonic style and wartime leather bound aviator jackets, illustrator Touko Laaksonen (Jakob Oftebro) came to be known in postwar gay circles for his homoerotic postcards and pamphlets under the name Tom of Finland. After seeking encounters in parks and public toilets stalls, at risk of discovery his fantasies are fueled in the shadows, with the threat of Finnish institutionalized remedies prompting him to seek international outlets for his art until exhibits in the 1970s bring him into contact with the openness of the US, where his drawings are respected as having spearheaded the iconic gay “look” that leads to Freddie Mercury and The Village People! Like the photos of Bettie Page that also came to attention via postcards and calendars, Tom of Finland’s bodybuilder images existed under the radar until a collection of his work surfaced in the early ’80s. This historical look features his work at ad agencies, his relationship with his sister and the support he received from his life partner met during the war.