Tom House: tour the phallus-filled former home of artist Tom of Finland
On a suburban street lined with modest bungalows in Los Angeles’ Echo Park is ‘one of the gay world’s most idiosyncratic and authentic historical sites’, as writer Mayer Rus describes it.
Rus is of course referring to the 1912 gabled Craftsman home of gay Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), aka Tom of Finland. It was in this ‘den of iniquity’ that Laaksonen spent the last decade of his life, creating his homoerotically charged artwork – and entertaining guests from the gay community.
Now it is the headquarters of the Tom of Finland Foundation, and new book, Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles – edited by creative director Michael Reynolds and photographed by Martyn Thompson – offers a tour of the property, which has been preserved in all its glory since Laaksonen’s death.
Tom House is not a tomb though. It was a pleasure palace for the artist and his band of friends during his lifetime, and Laaksonen’s sense of outrageousness (and humour) lives on in rooms strewn with penises and homoerotic art. From metal cock-casts to phallus-shaped throw pillows, the objects go beyond pornographic kitsch – the house is an extension of his work.
And Tom House is still very much in use as an archive and outsider art gallery.
‘The character of the house morphs in response to whoever happens to be living there or visiting at any particular time,’ writes Rus in the book’s foreword. ‘Some days, that might be a gaggle of art students or gay culture vultures; on other days, it might be a group of likeminded voluptuaries gathered for a sex party. Occasionally, it’s all those things at once.’