Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Supplement: Touko Laaksonen

Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen is best known by his pseudonym 'Tom of Finland' - and is famous/infamous for his unapologetic, frequently pornographic depiction of hypermasculinised gay archetypes (the lumberjack, the biker, the sailor, the traffic cop etc.). Unlike J.C. Leyendecker's illustrations, there is nothing subtextual or inferred about the objectification of the male physique in Laaksonen's illustrations. Indeed, I struggled to find examples of his work to showcase here that didn't risk causing offense or crossing a line! In common with photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe, Laaksonen's work divides opinion; for some, he was a mono-thematic purveyor of porn and promulgator of queer cliches, racist myth, permissive sexuality and casual sadomasochism. For others, he was a champion in the struggle by a particular community to materialise, whose positive images of 'the happy beefcake' challenged the equation often made between homosexuality and feminisation - and guilt. I'm featuring Laaksonen here, because as a draughtsman, he was highly skilled, and in terms of 'character design', there is much to be learned from Laaksonen in terms of depicting the 'heroic archetype'.

Arguably, there is a societal double-standard about Laaksonen's work and the anxiety it causes. After all, most mainstream comic books and Hollywood movies are as guilty of objectifying, exaggerating and sexualising the male form (perfect, bulked-up torsos, skin-tight outfits and leather fetish, ego-enhancing cod-pieces...). Hypermasculinity is everywhere - and consider the character of Gaston in Disney's Beauty in the Beast, one of Laaksonen's men for sure...

For more of Laaksonen's work go here - but if you're likely to be offended or upset by explicit images of same sex encounters - please don't!


  1. These drawings are fantastic! I love the poses and the emphasised muscle shapes. Really nice! :D