The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Center in New York is hosting a Queer Art Benefit, May 21 – June 1, 2020.
Some spaces are full of magic. TOM House is undeniably one of them. Nestled in the hills of LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, the residence houses the Tom of Finland Foundation along with a vibrant community of gay crusaders, not to mention one of the largest collections of homoerotic art in the world.
In the summer of 2016, I was fortunate enough to be inducted into TOM House as its artist-in-residence, where I could work on a (forthcoming) collection of erotic nonfiction stories inspired by the space. In the beginning, I couldn’t comprehend how living there would completely transform me. Beyond my exposure to the archives housed onsite, I was embraced by a gay family, one that supported and encouraged me to develop into a more realized version of myself. TOM House, I learned, is home to a collective vision: to celebrate our nature as sexual beings.
As I write this, the whole place is bustling. The foundation is creating artwork for three European exhibitions shipping out this week. This kind of rumpus is common, but beneath the wild operation and the frequent events and artist collaborations, we are a loving ménage. In a rare quiet moment, I was able to snatch away the current head of the foundation and the house, Durk Dehner, who is, among other things, the former lover of Touko Laaksonen, the late artist originally behind the Tom of Finland moniker.
Durk is the head of our tribe. He’s the one who brought the magic and, ultimately, Tom of Finland to this very house. …
Charles Leslie is the renowned co-founder and owner of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. We visited Charles in his iconic SoHo loft, often referred to as The Phallus Palace for its rich penile motifs. Surrounded by a small army of phalli, our conversation touched upon his acting career, his love life, the city’s gentrification, and Frank Sinatra’s dick.
Where did the name “The Phallus Palace” originate? It was a girlfriend who said, “I’m going to dub your place ‘The Penis Palace.’ ” I told that to another girlfriend, and she said, “Oh, Charles, that’s so crude. It needs a classier name — I’m going to call it ‘The Phallus Palace.’ ” And that stuck.
What was her name? Rita Kallerhoff, who is an artist. She lives in Morocco — she’s 72, living with her beautiful 39-year-old Moroccan lover. When she first came to New York, she didn’t know how to speak English. She was put in the hands of a woman who said, “Now darling, first I’m going to dress you properly. Then you’ll smoke a cigarette, read a magazine, and sit in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel. Sooner or later, someone will speak to you briefly and leave a room key in your hand. When you have that room key, you go to that room” — where she found some jerk waiting to fuck. She was told to accommodate him, which she did. Overnight, she became a very high-class call girl. …
A quarter century has passed since the death of an artistic legend. We dive deep into his archive to unearth his sublime photographs and remember his story.
Art has the capacity to balance seemingly incompatible qualities — self-expression and communal tribute, tangible materiality and metaphysical essence, fading ephemerality and boundless eternity. American artist Steven Arnold (1943-1994) embodied these dualities, proving that the dark shadow of death cannot exist without the shining light of life. His enduring legacy is memorialized in an upcoming exhibit at New York’s International Center of Photography and a new documentary Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodies.
When Arnold died in 1994 amid the AIDS crisis, he left behind a vast body of work. During his life, he fluttered between different modes of art-making — painting, drawing, sculpture, film, photography, fashion, and set design. A pioneer of cultural revolution, Arnold was at the forefront of counter-culture in the ’60s, but meandering through different eras with an indulgent grace, he defied limiting himself to one genre or style. In the ’70s, he was a dashing surrealist; in the ’80s, a mystical revisionist historian. Today, he’s often remembered for his role in launching the gender-bending performance troupe the Cockettes and for studying under Salvador Dalí as his protégé.
Premiering at Outfest at the MOCA Grand in Los Angeles this past July, director Vishnu Dass’s biographical documentary brings together interviews with friends like Simon Doonan, Rumi Missabu, and Holly Woodlawn along with photos and other artworks from the Steven Arnold Archive to illustrate the rich tapestry of the artist’s singular life. Together these elements work to narrate Arnold’s artistic passage from an imaginative student through his experiments with film and psychedelics, and on toward founding a studio in Los Angeles in the ’80s, where he began his distinctive black-and-white tableau vivant photography. …
Berlin-based filmmaker and photographer Matt Lambert has become known for his art house approach to erotic film. In his fast-paced style, he merges filth, fun, and sexual fantasy with a dynamism rarely seen in the porn production industry.
Pleasure Park is his fifth publishing project, produced as both a film and zine, inspired by the legacy of Tom of Finland. Debuting on Men.com in early 2020, the film is a stylized documentary of a group of adult performers, friends on a hot summer day, shot at the Tom of Finland Foundation, at Tom’s former residence. The cast includes Sean Ford, Joey Mills, Angel Rivera, River Wilson and Tannor Reed, with a live music performance by Taco Guillen of SCUM and several of its East LA Latinx members. The accompanying zine was released in early December 2019, illustration and graphic design crafted by Stefan Fähler, and it is available at the Tom of Finland Store.
Having worked with Christeene and Rick Owens on their infamous music video, Butt Muscle, and the picture book Vitium, a collaboration with his husband Jannis Birsner, Lambert is no stranger to voyeuristic sensibility and sensual oddity. Recounting the experience of making Pleasure Park, he describes, “there’s definitely a big throwback to queercore punk zine culture which we started to play with in Vitium. With Tom’s work being such a conscious and sub-conscious influence on my work, it was so inspiring to create this in the context of the foundation and at the house which holds such a magical and hedonistic spirit.” …
The clever artist explains his drawing process and remembers the passion in teenage daydreams.
Pol Anglada grew up near the Pyrenees Mountains, in the Catalan region of Spain, less than two hours from Barcelona. On his dad’s side, they were electricians; on his mom’s, farmers. His grandma was a talented seamstress who taught him how to sew. In awe, he would watch her work with clientele, friends and neighbors, repairing ripped seams and hemming skirts and pants. As a hobby, his dad and granddad would draw, and sometimes his dad would play a drawing game with him. “My dad might ask me to envision Spider-Man as a princess, or a princess as Spider-Man, or he might tell me to imagine Godzilla and King Kong. He would say, ‘What if they fought: Who would win?’ And once we had finished laughing at the idea, he would say, ‘All right, now draw it.’ ”
When his dad was young, his family traveled across Europe, and he developed a passion for magazines, comic books and graphic novels. Censorship was pervasive in this last phase of Spanish dictatorship; the open display of nudity and sexual content was illegal. But because he was able to travel internationally into his late teen years, Anglada’s dad amassed a broad, immodest collection of printed media, which he later shared with his son.
“A big chunk of my dad’s books were erotic magazines and comics. I became obsessed with them,” Anglada remembers. “They were all intended for straight audiences, but I remember seeing [Bob] Mizer’s Physique Pictorial and trying to spot where you might see a dick or bum.” …
The current show at P·P·O·W gallery in New York boasts a variety of garments, art objects, ephemera, film, and photography — all working together to reconstruct a semblance of Hunter Reynolds’ life as drag performance artist, Patina du Prey. While the artist does not perform in the space, each room in the exhibition represents a different grouping of artifacts, mapping his life and series of performances during the AIDS crisis. As Patina, Reynolds wore makeup and elaborate dresses to elicit a surreal mash-up of gender, a Baroque grandiosity, and a process-driven immediacy. Her existence generated healing, both for the performer and her witnesses. Today, the exhibition allows us to remember a delicate history, which has tossed and turned into the present — of pain and terror, joy and passion, taking what might have become deep repression and exposing it to the light in a howling testimony.
A historical essay by Jane Ursula Harris accompanying the exhibition brilliantly configures Reynolds’ timeline. Life has not been easy for the daring artist, and his childhood was no exception. In a scenario that many queer boys have experienced, he was caught dancing in his sister’s crinoline underskirt as a child. His parents shamed him, and forbid him to wear it again. After coming out at the young age of 14, he was thrown out of his house at 17 for starting a LGB club at his Florida high school, that same year moving to Los Angeles and working nights in a mailroom. Eventually, he got his GED and then an art degree from Otis. …
Duane Michals doesn’t consider himself a photographer but an expressionist. A great photo, he says, should never show you reality; it should contradict it. It should challenge the way you view the world, bending and upending your assumptions. While Duane is best known for his pioneering narrative sequences — photo series that tell stories like a progression of film stills — his 50-plus-year career spans photojournalism, video art and, of course, portraiture. Duane has shot everyone from René Magritte to Andy Warhol to Meryl Streep. Dreamlike and uncanny, his images tend to offer more questions than answers. And somehow, at 87 years old, he’s still at it.
Born just south of Pittsburgh in 1932, Duane zigzagged from Texas to Colorado to Korea to New York, all before a fateful trip to Russia, where he discovered an instinct for photography. After that, Duane returned to New York and started working in the field professionally, first taking photos for magazines like Esquire and Vogue, then moving to fine-art photography and, with a MoMA show in 1970, landing the first of many prestigious exhibitions.
To hear about it firsthand, I called Duane at his Gramercy Park apartment. He was arch, dryly self-deprecating yet disarmingly insightful. Now in his ninth decade, Duane’s prolific career — which, these days, includes two simultaneous exhibitions at The Morgan Library & Museum and DC Moore Gallery in New York — has maintained its incredible speed. As he said toward the end of our wandering conversation where I laid the compliments on thick, “Yes, yes, hurry up.” …