If people talk about homo-erotic fetish art, the first popular artist they have in mind is the iconic Tom of Finland. I think most of us know at least one of his illustrations. He first started to publish his homo-erotic drawings 1957 in an American bodybuilder magazine. 1984 the Tom of Finland Foundation has been established in Los Angeles, with the goal to support homo-erotic art and artists. In the Tom of Finland House you can find more than 2’500 artworks all related to the fetish subculture, and they host artists so that they can study and develop their own ideas and projects there. My interview partner has been one of these artists who has had the privilege to spend some months in this house.

Ben Youdan

1979 | 180 cm | 76 kg
Liverpool (GB)

Hi Ben, it’s a pleasure to have you with us. You’re back in cold and foggy London. Aren’t you missing sunny California?

I’m actually in cold and foggy Liverpool, which is probably colder and more foggy than London!!

I certainly am missing the California sunshine. Whilst I was at the tom house, I had a studio in the garden with passion fruits and orange trees around it, which is a slight contrast to the north of England I can tell you!

The climate, along with the attractive leather men is a great attraction of L.A. and naturally the Tom house.

What are the differences between the leather subculture of Europe and America? Just the guys? Of course the grass in the neighbours garden is always greener. But have you felt or seen some other differences?

I think there are differences. I mean the leather scene is changing both in Europe and The States. In my experience the European scene is more cruisey and in the states they seem to love a pageant.

There seemed to be a competition based around leather or fetish on an almost weekly basis in L.A. The good thing about that was that all members of the community seemed to be represented.

There was a great sense of community at the Tom house. I had the opportunity to meet and engage with a wide variety of leather men which was unique and incredible. Don’t make me pick wether European or American men are sexier! That is too hard!

Yes you’re right, the fetish scene is changing. During Tom of Finland’s lifetime the leather fetish was like the coronation of the fetish lifestyle, the gods of kink. I think this has changed and the kink world has become much more open and shows various faces. How do you see these changes?

I think that is absolutely right. I think there is always going to be elitism within any community, but fortunately this is not the case in a majority of kink places. It sounds cliche, but more often than not there is a sense of brotherhood and family within the leather community. It can be a support network in addition to the sexual nature of it.

The community is multi-layered, like Toms work. What draws you in initially is the erotic nature of it, but over time you realise there is a liberating message of freedom and celebration of sexuality that I believe has an universal appeal.

During the 3 months you have been able to absorb the spirit of Tom of Finland, living in a house with over 2’500 homo-erotic art pieces. What have you done all the day, and what kind of inspiration have you got there?

The three months went by so quickly, and that is exactly what I tried to do, “Absorb he spirit.” The first two weeks I was there I spent every day going through the archive or art work and books and magazines. I had complete access to all of it, and was able to look at anything. including collage and preliminary work that Tom had done himself. I would wake early and literally spend all day reading and looking. It was a real privilege to do this and was a great way to sew the seeds of inspiration.

I was also meeting other leather men at the house, which was in itself inspiring.

You could sit on the front porch and never move, and a stream of people would arrive for you to talk to on any given day. The thrill was you never knew who might turn up and what opportunity would arise.

I began by photographing the people I met and this became the beginning of the background collage for my finished pieces.

The Tom house is inherently inspiring. There is a magical sense of mischief around every corner. it is a very special place indeed.

Oh yes, we really should talk about your art work, Ben. 🙂 Your pieces are very various and they give an insight into different kinks. I really like that you don’t show only the iconic muscle males like Tom of Finland has done. (He didn’t like feminine guys and that was also the reason why he wasn’t often in gay bars). You really open a window to the fetish world the way it is existing, and not to the perfect porn world. How would you describe your art work?

Thats absolutely right. Tom showed a fantasy vision of masculinity, a vision of the male form that was idealised and incredibly beautiful as well as arousing. I like to work with a wide variety of models who are different shapes, sizes, colours and ages, as male beauty and sexuality in all its forms is something I believe should be celebrated. For me the sexiness of my subjects lies in their confidence.

We can ALL be Toms men, regardless of what we look like. Most of us don’t have “Perfect” bodies and it really doesn’t matter.

You’re totally right … I think kink is about being yourself and not about being an idealised creature. But often it is hard work to accept what you are and what you feel. If we talk about hard work …. Your art pieces look very labour-intensive. What kind of techniques do you use and how much time does it take util a new child is born?

Oh absolutely! If kink is about anything, it is being honest with yourself and what you are into. It can be hard to accept yourself though. But within the kink community it is possible to celebrate and eroticise all body types. Which can only be a good thing.

They are quite time consuming, that is true. I begin by photographing the model, printing the images and then making a layered collage. I then paint on the main image over that so some of the images are still visible. I then apply the embellishments (which takes the longest.) A piece that is three feet by 4 feet would take me around 2 weeks. Some of the larger pieces may take up to a month.

Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects and where people can see your art work? Maybe you can tell them where they can buy it as well…. As much as I know artists need some bread and a bed too.

Hahaha. How right you are! You can currently see my work in the Exhibition “FILTH”, which is at The Gallery in Liverpool or alternatively on my website. For sales contact me through social media or email.

I can’t tell you about any upcoming projects just yet, but there are a couple of exciting new things that will hopefully come to fruition next year.

Ben, it was a pleasure to talk to you. It is great to see your art here on sadOsam, but I hope that many kinksters and friends will find the way to The Gallery in Liverpool to visit your exposition.

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