Tom of Finland House
This two-story Craftsman home in Echo Park reflects Los Angeles' contributions to the evolution of erotic art, given its association with internationally celebrated artist Tom of Finland.
A native of the Finnish countryside, Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991) adopted the pseudonym "Tom of Finland" in 1957, after being credited as such in Los Angeles-based photographer Bob Mizer's magazine Physique Pictorial. He soon became a renowned illustrator of gay erotica.
Laaksonen first came to Los Angeles in 1978 to showcase his artwork in a solo exhibition. The success of the show led him to become a frequent traveler to the region.
He eventually began splitting his time evenly between Finland and Los Angeles, where he lived in this two-story residence he often called his "home away from home." Its longtime owner, Durk Dehner, invited Laaksonen to use the house as his local studio and residence.
In 1984, Laaksonen and Dehner spearheaded the Tom of Finland Foundation in the house to catalog his work and to provide a safe space for artists facing discrimination and misrepresentation due to the erotic nature of their work.
The organization continues to present erotic art in a curatorial, yet open, environment where the works can be viewed and appreciated for their artistic contributions, free from judgment.
In July 2016, the Tom of Finland Foundation nominated 1421 Laveta Terrace for designation as an Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). City Council voted to approve the nomination in November 2016. Click here to read the application >>
Tom of Finland was born Touko Laaksonen in Kaarina, Finland in 1920. Growing up in the Finnish countryside, Laaksonen was enamored of the masculine figures, including farmers and loggers, who worked in the landscapes near his home.
Laaksonen attended art school and studied advertising in Helsinki until the outbreak of World War II, when he was conscripted as a lieutenant in the Finnish Army.
It was during his time in the military that Laaksonen first began exploring his gay identity and had sexual relationships with other conscripts. The influence of these relationships with overtly masculine figures is reflected in his art work.
Laaksonen adopted the pseudonym "Tom of Finland" in 1957 when he submitted samples to photographer Bob Mizer's magazine Physique Pictorial under the name "Tom."
After his work was accepted for the spring issue of the magazine, Laaksonen was credited as "Tom of Finland," and he continued to use it as his pseudonym. His work became so popular that he was able to devote his full attention to creating gay erotica.
The Tom of Finland House is significant for its association with artist Touko Laaksonen during the last decade of his life. This era marked a particularly productive period in his career, during which he rose to international acclaim for his contributions to erotic art and gay culture.
During this time, Laaksonen used the third floor space as his combined bedroom and studio. Although he returned to Finland regularly, the Echo Park residence fostered his artistic community and cultivated an ongoing discourse on art, gay liberation, and pride.
While his work has been featured in the collections of major art institutions, including the New York Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, the Tom of Finland House continues to promote Laaksonen's legacy and fosters new generations of gay and erotic artists.