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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Book Review: Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles by Michael Reynolds

Book Review: Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles by Michael Reynolds

Image Above: ©Martyn Thompson, Book Cover, 2016.
Tom_of_Finland_03_15_Day_04_0548_2A
Tom_of_Finland_03_15_Day_04_0548_2A
Image Above: ©Martyn Thompson, 2016.

Tom of Finland’s artistic legacy is global. Yet – undeniably – his energy is the most present in his L.A. home, known affectionately as Tom House. For those unacquainted with Tom’s work, you’re in for a wild ride. Since the early 1950s, Tom of Finland sketched authoritarian male figures (most abundantly cops) and imagined their sexual escapades with each other. Well-sculpted and well-endowed bodies abound. The Rizzoli photography book Tom House: Tom of Finlandin Los Angeles reveals the uninhibited mind of Tom to the masses, and gives us a peek into the house—now the site of the Tom of Finland Foundation–that doubles as a museum of his work.

Tom_of_Finland_03_15_Day_04_0558_2A
Tom_of_Finland_03_15_Day_04_0558_2A
Image Above: ©Martyn Thompson, 2016.

In Tom House, New York-based photographer Martyn Thompson acts as a tour guide of the home, capturing striking images of its interior and exterior. Tom’s original drawings are interspersed throughout the book, adding artistic context to Thompson’s images. It’s an engaging experience to view Tom’s artwork–which is the raw fruit of his sexual and artistic passions–and see elements of their homoeroticism reified in the home. Phallic images appear in the form of sculptures, curios, pillows, blankets; the house is fully immersed in erotic aesthetic.

Tom_of_Finland_03_15_Day_05_0255_2A
Tom_of_Finland_03_15_Day_05_0255_2A
Image Above: ©Martyn Thompson

Martyn Thompson’s vantage point in Tom House is curious and engaged. He captures the details of the home’s decor that could be missed at first glance. Thompson is a seasoned documentarian of interiors, and is also well-known for his work with fashion and textiles. His eye for texture is notable in his photographs of the home; notably, Thompson's photo of a denim quilt delicately emblazoned with homoerotic imagery encapsulates the marriage of tones present in the home. Tom House is highly saturated with erotica, but there is no shortage of nuance.

Tom_of_Finland_Shot_05_0043A
Tom_of_Finland_Shot_05_0043A
Image Above: ©Martyn Thompson

When describing his visit, Thompson mentioned, “The environment where the art comes from is often surprising. His work is hypermasculine. What I found intriguing is that's not reflected. It’s quite cozy. It’s the coziness I wouldn’t expect.” Coziness and erotica, in most contexts, seems dissonant. Yet, reading Mayer Rus’s foreword about the origins of Tom House makes the cozy presence of the home make perfect sense. Tom of Finland used his house as a safe haven for like-minded men, creating a warm sense of safety and brotherhood. Erotica abounds in the house, but the home is founded on a strong sense of connection. Tom’s house, as demonstrated by its shades of the hot, the warm, and the cool, is indeed a home.

Text by Alexandra Glembocki
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