Itella Posti the national postal service in Finland is honouring the homo-erotic artist Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991) AKA Tom of Finland with a series of postage stamps. They will be releasing seven new sets of stamps in total, including 33 new designs. It is an unusual collection to choose from; the subjects of the new stamps include male drawings by Tom of Finland, autumnal yard and garden scenes painted by Urpo Martikainen, and Jaakko Tähti’s photos of Finnish bridges. Other subjects for the end-of-the-year stamps include signs of sky and the change in everyday Finland – and, of course, yuletide themes.
Confident and proud homoeroticism The autumn’s stamp series begins September 8 with Tom of Finland, who is considered one of the most well-known Finnish artists around the world. His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion. In his works, Tom of Finland utilized the self-irony and humor typical of subcultures.
During his career, Tom of Finland produced more than 3,500 drawings. The two drawings on the stamp sheet were selected by graphic artist Timo Berry, who designed the stamp, and Susanna Luoto, the Finnish representative of the foundation named after Tom of Finland operating in Los Angeles.
The drawings on the stamp sheet represent strong and confident male figures typical of their designer. “The sheet portrays a sensual life force and being proud of oneself. There is never too much of that in this northern country,” says Timo Berry. The miniature sheet contains three 1st class self-adhesive stamps.
The artist behind Tom of Finland was Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), whose profile is extended in the exhibition Sealed with a Secret – Correspondence of Tom of Finland opening in the Postal Museum September 6. The exhibition will display the busy correspondence of Laaksonen from the early 1940s to his dying year, 1991. The exhibition will be displayed until March 29, 2015, in Museum Centre Vapriikki in the new Postal Museum to be opened in Tampere in September.
These are the first stamps to depict gay subject matter rather than honouring a gay icon. In May, the US are issuing a stamp featuring the murdered San Francisco supervisor, Harvey Milk, the first openly elected gay government official in the US. The stamp will be launched at the White House. In the past, the US have celebrated Andy Warhol, James Baldwin and the poet Elizabeth Bishop on postage stamps. In the UK the openly gay World War II codebreaker Alan Turing was featured in the Royal Mail’s Britons of Distinction series.