I can't think of a more fitting location for a Tom of Finland art exhibit than the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MOCA) in West Hollywood. West Hollywood, known around town as the abbreviated WeHo, is the Christopher Street of Los Angeles where gays, lesbians and like-minded folk can co-exist freely without societal constraints and pressure. Being a big Tom of Finland fan, I attended the newly opened show that he shared with beefcake king Bob Mizer.
For those not familiar with Tom of Finland, my best description of him would be to call him the gay Bill Ward. His erotic illustrations of sexually virile men is comparable to Ward's depiction of his sexually aroused vixens: both are depicted as enormously attractive individuals with grotesquely enormous genitalia sending them in a constant state of sexual ardor.
A Tom of Finland male proudly and even defiantly wears only the most fetishistic clothes: Navy uniforms, cowboy clothes, motorcycle leathers, police uniforms and denim trousers so tight they almost seem painted on. Bulging, nay, practically fighting its way out of every pair of trousers are biologically impossible swollen pair of testes and endlessly long penises in the history of art. Interestingly enough, the comparison to Ward continues in the way Tom shades his figures in the same style as Ward.
Tom's depiction of sexual situations always maintain a bizarrely cheerful air about them, even when men are being tied up or gang-banged. There's never a display of brutality or even aggression a la John Willie in his erotica. It's as if Tom of Finland's pictures are having a party and it's freaking everybody out!
Tom's artwork graced the covers of a digest-sized magazine for men called "Physique Pictorial" which also employed the brilliant paintings of George Quaintance, another artist who depicted homosexuality as an erotic happyland Utopia, as well. Another regular to the gay digest was popular beefcake photographer Bob Mizer, co-billed with Tom at MOCA.
How can I describe Bob Mizer? If the straights had Bunny Yeager then the gays had Bob Mizer. It is estimated that Mizer shot over a million beefcake shots in his legendary career. Mizer's photography is as meat and potatoes man love as it gets, with a few twists along the way: one naked model is dressed like an Aztec god, another in Superman drag, and of course the mandatory cowboys, sailors and motorcycle boys. Guaranteed crowd pleasers, of course.
To see more of Mizer's work, check out the massive collection "Bob's World", available from Taschen Books. I liked his fantasy photography more than his more static shots, but then again he knew his audience and they wanted, well, you know. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the show, which opened on November 2, 2013 and will run until January 26, 2014.