Pushing The Envelope


Itella, the Finnish postal service, has approved stamp designs based on the homoerotic art of Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland:

Laaksonen remains a towering and iconic figure in the gay art scene. His sketches, often explicit, were unapologetic depictions of gay sex and relationships. Laaksonen’s subjects were almost always muscle-bound, handsome figures, often bursting out of their clothes. His work, a meditation on masculinity, was also heavy on leather fetish imagery. It’s a pretty risque sheet of stamps. … “The sheet (of stamps) portrays a sensual life force and being proud of oneself,” said graphic designer Timo Berry, who selected the work that will be printed on stamps released this fall. “There is never too much of that in this northern country.”

Martin Schneider elaborates:

Tom of Finland’s images of leather-clad bikers mark the early boundary of what can be considered contemporary queer art designed for mainstream consumption. They shred the boundaries between porn and art. What makes them so intriguing, in a way, is that the male figures have a sensitivity accorded them that makes them something beyond mere “beefcake.” They’re images of pure fantasy, without being oppressive; they are obscurely real. In contrast to the once dominant gay stereotype of the “fairy,” “ponce,” etc., Tom of Finland’s bikers were unquestionably empowering. We salute the progressive minds at Itella who worked to make these stamps a reality.

Check out the risque three-stamp set here. A short documentary about Tom of Finland and his influence is here.