A new exhibition in association with the Tom of Finland Foundation at Cross Lane Projects Kendal, Cumbria marks the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the birth of Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen). The show celebrates the world’s best-loved queer artist, comics creator and gay icon. This highly anticipated event will take place during the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October.
My aim is not to create an ideal but to draw beautiful men who love each other and are proud of it
From the 1940s on, Tom pushed the boundaries of gay erotic art, creating a style of comics that inspired a generation of gay men to celebrate their sexuality.
“My aim is not to create an ideal but to draw beautiful men who love each other and are proud of it,” Tom, who died in 1991, noted in his book, Tom of Finland: His Life and Times.
“In those days, a gay man was made to feel nothing but shame about his feelings and his sexuality. I wanted my drawings to counteract that, to show gay men being happy and positive about who they were. Oh, I didn’t sit down to think this all out carefully. But I knew – right from the start – that my men were going to be proud and happy men!”
Let’s Go Camping with Tom of Finland has been curated with the Tom of Finland Foundation and Cross Lane Projects, and charts the artist’s career, including his famous Kake comic series and some of his other popular titles, including Camping and the soccer comic, Dick. The exhibition will also explore the work of artists inspired by Tom of Finland, including the well-known American artist, Michael Kirwan.
This is a unique, free exhibition, open to those over 18, and part of the official Tom of Finland Centenary celebrations, supported by the Finnish Institute.
Julie Tait, Director of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, said: “Our festival celebrates icons of comic art, and Tom of Finland is certainly one of those. His comic work offers an important perspective on queer culture at a key point in its history, and is part of a broad programme designed to inform, inspire and challenge people’s understanding of the wonderful world of comics”.
LICAF, in association with the Tom of Finland Foundation, will produce a series of fine art prints, and a unique publication featuring a complete reprint of Dick to accompany the exhibition.
“It’s with great excitement that the Tom of Finland Foundation participates in this year’s comic festival, bringing the artist Tom of Finland’s fun and pleasure to the Festival,” comments Durk Dehner, President of the Tom of Finland Foundation. “This is a perfect time to include the LGBTQ community in celebrating one of its heroes, with much thanks to the director Julie Tait whose inclusiveness is bringing a fresh new face to the Festival”.
Cross Lane Projects Co-Founder, artist Rebecca Scott said “We are delighted to present Let’s Go Camping with Tom of Finland and believe the exhibition enriches our programme, and also the contemporary art scene of Kendal. We are happy to be an inclusive space with a diverse programme, as we enter our second year of operation.
“The exhibition is of particular interest to us as it connects with our respective artistic practices: Co-Founder Mark Woods’ inquiry into objects of desire and fetishism, and recent photographic work examining codes of dress and stereotypical gendered images; and my late-’80s paintings of male nudes that reinterpreted homoerotic imagery through the female gaze, and informed my later career.”
The Tom of Finland Foundation is a nonprofit organisation and Educational Archive, co-founded by Tom of Finland and Durk Dehner in 1984. It’s supported by donations from the public, fundraising events, dues from its membership programs and commercial applications of Tom’s art.
Tom of Finland Foundation’s mission is to protect, preserve and promote the works of Tom of Finland and his fellow erotic artists. The Permanent Collection houses more than 1,500 original works by Tom, and another 2,000 works by hundreds of other artists, and the archives, with well over 100,000 images, documents, and records, together comprise the world’s largest repository of erotic art.
Cross Lane Projects was founded by Cumbria-born artist Rebecca Scott and her husband Mark Woods, a sculptor in June 2018. The pair have established Cross Lane Projects with the aim of bringing new contemporary art and debate to Cumbria, presenting a curated programme of three exhibitions of contemporary art each year featuring the work of local, international and British artists, and accompanied by public talks and events. Rebecca and Mark have been delighted with the response from visitors who have welcomed the “fresh new space” in Kendal. In 2019, Cross Lane Projects was shortlisted as a ‘Finalist’ as Venue of the Year in the Cumbria Life Culture Awards and Rebecca Scott was a ‘Finalist’ as Cumbrian Artist of the Year.
The Finnish Institute in London is a private, non-profit trust bringing together individuals, communities and organisations. It encourages cross-disciplinary and cross-border collaboration by creating networks and building new partnerships, aiming to take thinking of social challenges and cultural practices in new, positive directions. To do this, they open up spaces for novel ideas, discussions and trends by bringing passionate people together, believing that a pinch of risk-taking, accompanied by the hard work of imaginative people, can transform cultures and spaces. The Institute embraces the unexpected – while nurturing and maintaining excellence in contemporary social and cultural practice.
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival returns to Kendal at various venues across the town 11th – 13th October 2019 comicartfestival.com
‘Let’s Go Camping with Tom of Finland’ – 28 September to 19 October 2019 Open 12-6pm, Wednesday to Saturday & for 10-13 October open 10am-6pm Free entry, 18 yrs+ only Cross Lane Projects, Cross Lane, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 5LB