Durk Dehner was in a gay bar in New York more than 30 years ago when he came across the artwork created by a man known as Tom of Finland, whose homoerotic drawings of men with bulging body parts in tight jeans and leather gear were popular in gay culture. “I just found it to be so compellingly sexy and desirable,” said Dehner, a model. Dehner tracked down Tom of Finland, a Finnish artist named Touko Laaksonen, and the two men forged a close and long lasting relationship, with Dehner becoming Laaksonen’s muse and patron. Dehner would later invite Laaksonen, who died in 1991, to visit his Echo Park home on palm-tree lined Laveta Terrace, where the artist would come for extended visits and take up residence on the top floor of the Craftsman-style home. The interior of that home, which now serves as the home of the Tom of Finland Foundation and a museum of homoerotic art, is featured in a video created in conjunction with an exhibit, BOB MIZER & TOM OF FINLAND, that opens this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Pacific Design Center gallery.
The video includes scenes of the interior and grounds of the more than century-old house, which is packed with thousands of pieces of drawings, posters, photos, books and other pieces. The room Laaksonen occupied in an attic-like space has been preserved in museum-like fashion. Dehner describes Laaksonen’s morning routine when he was in residence:
He would walk out the back door and go down the stairs to the lower terraces and sit on a stoop. The cats and dogs would always follow him … He loved the California mornings, the sunshine He would then go back and he’d go upstairs … He could shut off the door and he could actually draw and never come out of there for hours.
The MOCA show is the first time a U.S. museum has staged an exhibit of the erotic art Laaksonen and fellow artist Bob Mizer.