(Touko Laaksonen, Finnish 1920 – 1991), is the creator of some of the most iconic and readily recognizable imagery of post-war gay culture and is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. He produced thousands of images beginning in the 1940s, robbing straight homophobic culture of its most virile and masculine archetypes (bikers, hoodlums, lumberjacks, cops, cowboys, and sailors) and recasting them through deft skill and imagination – unapologetic, self-aware, and boastfully proud enthusiasts of gay sex.
In 1984, the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation was established by Durk Dehner and Touko Laaksonen. As Tom had established worldwide recognition as the master of homo-erotic art, the Foundation’s original purpose was to preserve his vast catalog of work. Several years later the scope was widened to offer a safe haven for all art in response to rampant discrimination against work that portrayed sexual behavior or generated a sexual response. Today the Foundation continues in its efforts of educating the public as to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality.