Tom of Finland, born a century ago this year, pioneered a new freedom and aesthetic in gay erotic art. Born into a time and place of extreme censorship, he was inspired by the "beefcake" photographs that were primarily distributed through body building magazines of the 1940s and `50s to create a visual language for gay men that was hyper-masculine and, over time, increasingly graphic, depicting the wildest sexual fantasies. Always instilled with a playfulness and joyful involvement of the participants, they also toyed with rebellion and put sex, politics, history, and aesthetics on a level playing field. His work became an inspiration for generations of artists to find their own voice and expression. His drawings, photographs, and collages can be found in several important collections and museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.
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