Friday, October 9, 2015

Tom Of Finland Arts and Culture Fair October 2-4, 2015, Los Angeles.

Tom Of Finland Arts and Culture Fair 2015

TOF Art Fair Program photographed by Alton DuLaney October 2015
This past weekend, the Tom Of Finland Foundation hosted its 21st annual Arts and Culture Fair at the Tom House in Los Angeles. Tom Of Finland, known as the "world's most famous pornographer", lived and worked out of a rambling craftsman-style house for the last 20 years of his life. In the mid 80's he started a foundation to help promote and preserve queer and erotic art, which included this annual fair, as well as many other cultural outreach initiatives. What started as a fringe movement has gradually became mainstream, with Tom Of Finland's work now in the collection of major art institutions including MOMA, LACMA, MOCA, The Getty, as well as numerous other private and public collections.

The art fair has grown and evolved over the years, dropping the word "erotic" and adding the word "culture" and this year featured over 30 artists from around the world.
Alton DuLaney photographs at the TOF Art Fair in Los Angeles October 2015
Among the artists presenting their work were photographers, painters, sketch artists, filmmakers, writers, performers, and poets - including the recently appointed Poet Laureate of West Hollywood - Steven Reigns. Artists exhibited their work within the sprawling compound in tents and pavilions across the estate and terraces. My space was in the back pavilion near the main stage, and had a beautiful view out across the hills of the Hollywood sign.
Alton DuLaney photograph of Michael James at the Tom Of Finland Arts and Culture Fair Oct 2-4, 2015.
The foundation did an excellent job of promoting the event  on social media and in local press. The event started Friday evening with a film screening, and went throughout the weekend events all day.

Gio Black Peter at TOF Arts Fair in LA photographed by Alton DuLaney Oct 2015

One of the artist I was most excited to meet was Gio Black Peter from NYC. He is an urban artist who got his start painting on subway maps and other found materials. In 2011 cult director and producer Bruce La Bruce directed a short video for Gio, helping to propel his career. Now Gio shows his work across the country, and performs regularly in clubs and galleries in NYC.

The History of Queer Photography at TOF Arts Fair in LA photographed by Alton DuLaney Oct 2-5, 2015
One of the most captivating exhibits was a history of queer photography shown in vintage photos and tin types, presented in a beautiful display case with a magnifying glass provided for a more intimate viewing. This really felt special and important, and gave a personal face and glimpse into the lives of pioneering men and women who faced enormous challenges in expressing their true selves. Picking up the magnifying glass, and peering into this case, was like looking into the past, providing a appreciative perspective on the present and even more hope for the future.
Drawing workshop at TOF Arts Fair in LA Oct 2-4, 2015.
 In addition to the exhibiting artists, there was also a drawing workshop in session both days with live nude models. Artists were invited to bring their sketchbook and attempt their own masterpiece.

Dungeon performance at TOF Arts Fair in LA October 2-4, 2015.

 Performances were also a big part of the fair including endurance performances in the dungeon, and other entertainers, readers and speakers on the two stages.

Jordan performing at the TOF Arts Fair in LA Oct 2-4, 2015
 Perhaps the most riveting performance was when LA performance artist Jordan was joined on stage by two men in full leather who assisted with a 'golden shower' scene for the finale of the piece.
Starrfucker Magazine at TOF Arts Fair in LA photographed by Alton DuLaney Oct 2-5, 2015
The culture element of the festival was perhaps most enlightening as it showed what a wide influence Tom Of Finland has had on culture over the decades. There were several authors and publishers on hand, inlcuding the fetish magazine STARRFUCKER, which drew a large crowd of models and artists hoping to get published.

Tom Of Finland biography by E. Valentine Hooven III
One author who was great to meet and chat with was E. Valentine Hooven III who wrote the very first authorized Biography of Tom Of Finland . Having read this book, and gifted it to many friends, it was a pleasure to finally meet the man behind the words. He was a kind and generous speaker who encouraged mentoring among his older peers, and community outreach among his younger fans.

Rick Castro at the TOF Arts Fair in LA Oct 2-5, 2015
There were also lifetime achievement awards presented to key members of the arts community including Rick Castro. A lifelong LA resident, Castro was co-producer and co-director of the cult classic "Hustler White" and now runs a successful gallery in Hollywood called Antebellum Gallery which promotes queer/erotic/fetish artists.

TOF Boutique at the TOF Arts Fair in LA Oct 2-4, 2015.
 In addition to art, the Tom Of Finland image and brand is also now used on a wide variety of products, on everything from French perfume to Finish postage stamps, to Italian rugs, to American condoms, sex toys and lube. Above is a shot from the TOF boutique, showing just a small selection of the offerings.

Durk Dehner at TOF Arts Fair in LA photographed by Alton DuLaney Oct 2-5, 2015
It was a great honor to be a part of the festival, being invited to stay at the foundation, and seeing the work involved in organizing an event on this scale. The work starts long before the guests arrive and ends long after the curtain is drawn. On Monday morning, after three action packed days, those of us at the foundation were still on site cleaning up and breaking down. Never one to shy away from getting his hands dirty, TOFF Founder Durk Dehner shows that the staff at TOFF do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Aldo, the Tom Of Finland mascot, at TOF Arts Fair in LA photographed by Alton DuLaney Oct 2-5, 2015
 It was a rewarding and exhausting arts fair for all involved. The foundation chose 5 of my photographs to add to their archives and warmly invited me back for future events. After 6 days in LA, I packed my bags, grabbed my dog Aldo, and headed to the airport for a late flight back to Texas.

For more info on this or other Tom Of Finland events, check out their website, sign up for the newsletter, and when in LA, volunteer!

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