Maybe the U.S. Postal Service could make at least a dent in its $5 billion deficit if it talked to Durk Dehner about designing its next round of postage stamps.
Finland did just that, and now Itella Posti, the Finnish national postal service, has announced that it will release in September a line of postage stamps featuring the homoerotic art of Touko Laaksonen, better known (at least in the gay world) as Tom of Finland.
Dehner is president of the Tom of Finland Foundation, based in Echo Park, which he established in 1984 to preserve and celebrate the work of Laaksonen, who died in Helsinki in 1991 at the age of 71.
Laaksonen has been described as “most influential creator of gay pornographic images” Joseph W. Slade, a professor at Ohio University who is known for his work in cultural history. Kate Wolf, in a review of his work in Artforum, said that “Tom of Finland helped pave the way to gay liberation.”
Laaksonen’s hypermasculine work has a sado-masochistic twist, which is evident in two stamps that Itella Posti will issue in September. The works depicted on the stamps were chosen by Timo Berry, a graphic artist who designed the stamp, and Susanna Luoto, the Finnish representative of the Tom of Finland Foundation.
“His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion,” Itella Posti said in announcing the Tom of Finland stamps. “In his works, Tom of Finland utilized the self-irony and humor typical of subcultures…The drawings on the stamp sheet represent strong and confident male figures typical of their designer.”
Indeed, the drawings on the stamps leave only a little to the imagination. And not everyone is as excited about them as the Finnish (and Los Angeles) leather communities. According to the website Jezebel a group has launched a petition asking Itella not to release the stamps.
“We don’t want Finland to be represented on homeland and international shipping with homoerotic themes,” an English translation of it reads. “Traditionally stamps have shown themes that are aesthetically beautiful and culturally valuable. Strong homoerotic theme in stamps is not either.”
While the U.S. Postal Service likely won’t be issuing such stamps anytime soon, those who want to know more about Laaksonen’s work can always visit the Tom of Finland Foundation website to find a list of upcoming exhibits. Dome Karukoski, a Finnish director, has announced that he will produce a documentary about Laaksonen soon.