Sizing Up the Tom of Finland Competition

It goes without saying that erotica is the main criterion for entering the 10th Tom of Finland Emerging Artist Competition. But actually, there’s very good reason to be vocal about it. The Tom of Finland Foundation launched the contest in 1993 to advance the principles of the Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland, who for decades portrayed well-endowed men looking for and engaged in homosexual acts — during a time when homosexuals were targeted, persecuted, and victimized by police.

The artist Bob Mizer was another target — and contemporary of Tom of Finland — of forces opposed to freedom of expression. As Dennis Bell, president of the Bob Mizer Foundation, told us in a recent interview: “He went to prison and had years of legal troubles simply for creating images that, in their own time, were as subversive and controversial as any image you see today in Straight to Hell. You have put it in context. In the 1950s, naked male bodies with only an outline of a cock seen through a posing strap were [considered] explicit.”

The judges of this year’s contest are an eclectic bunch. They include Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide-Pierson of the Brazilian art collective assume vivid astro focus; Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset of the art duo Elmgreen & Dragset; designer-turned-artist Helmut Lang, Bruce LaBruce, Richard Hawkins, Ryan Heffington, Linder, and A.L. Steiner.

The winner — who’ll win the above Tom of Finland sketch and a stay in his former bedroom-cum-studio (who knows what you’ll find!) — will be announced on December 3, while the awards will be presented at the Foundation’s 30th anniversary celebration on December 14, 2014, in Los Angeles. Submissions — photos, drawings, paintings, collages, sculptures, 3-D art, digital art, mixed media — must be received by the end of November 3. Apply at Tom of Finland Foundation.

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