Can you tell me about the Hustler White Unidentified collection available through the Tom of Finland Store?
Hustler White Unidentified started to evolve from the feelings of my teenage years. If I have to think of one man from that time he is Tony Ward. My inspiration comes a lot from the popular culture of past decades. During the 90s I was a young boy trying to be a cool guy, raving in the lasers if I got into the clubs with fake ID, wearing bright colored abstract figure t-shirts and reading Sex Book in French (that version was cheaper). Somehow against these happy times life was a bit dark then, there was AIDS, party drugs arriving to Finland, gay scene was not that liberal, the whole country was suffering economical depression and so on. Even Music Television was dealing with these things. Unfortunately that exact TV company refused to show Justify My Love music video starring Tony Ward and I needed to order VHS single from USA. It never arrived.
What is it about Hustler White that inspires you? Why put it into a collection?
The film Hustler White, where the collection`s name came from, I saw much later and it had a whole different effect on me by opening new visions to gay culture, thanks to director Bruce LaBruce and casting Tony Ward for the film. I wanted to add Unidentified to Hustler White`s collection name already in the beginning of the project and later visualize that by covering men’s faces like his genitals would make porn look softer. Blocking the face also brings up the fact that some things are still need to be hidden even in 2018 like some LGBT people need to leave their home country, some countries don’t allow gay marriage and so on. I don’t want to preach, but just saying few facts now.
All these so called historical things of my life turned out to be an allover print projecting the wild 90’s vibe for everyday clothing products such as T-shirts, tube bags, Fresh Prince shorts, bandana etc. I wanted to make an homage, a happy one, for one of my teenage idols. Tony Ward in Hustler White is super cool nowadays too. He is an icon. Pretty much for that reason the collection was photographed on Finnish gay icon Tomi Lappi by my friend Mikko Rasila.
How did you first come across Bruce La Bruce's work?
Actually the first thing was his film Hustler White (feels like I am really promoting my collection now hah-hah). The film was shown one night only at an alternative film festival in late 90’s. I chose the film, because usually that time people couldn’t see gay related films at theaters, especially in Helsinki. And of course because Tony Ward was in the main role, I did not know that he was “gay” hah-hah. Bruce LaBruce was really interesting name too I think. I remember sitting in the middle of theatre, it was empty, only few people here and there. One person left while the amputate sex scene. Yeah, the scene was strange for me too as still finding my own sexuality, but later on I realized that Bruce LaBruce`s brutality is the thing I like in his art. That time Finnish gay scene was really feminine, in Finland guys were still vogueing in high heels at clubs. Bruce LaBruce brought me to the next level of masculinity. There is nothing bad in vogueing, I love that too, but I mean LaBruce turned me more in the dark side of gay culture. And after all it is not dark at all. He is just showing different gay stereotypes, more masculine ones, sex and even zombies. And let’s not forget the end of Hustler White, if you don’t remember, watch it. There is love.
What other artists and icons are you inspired by?
Madonna, Robert Alfons from TR/ST, street artist Robert Humbleton, The Duffer Brothers known for Stranger Things, John Waters, David Lynch and fashion designer Thom Browne to name a few now. They all come from very different genres and they have created very unique and inspirational world around them.
And who do you think today’s Tony Ward is?
Nobody. There are a lot of great, inspirational and handsome men in this world, but Tony is and always will be the only Mr. Ward. Say hello if you meet him in L.A.
But does anyone come close?
If I really have to name one now he is Justin Theroux. I have liked him since I Shot Andy Warhol film. I think he is very versatile actor and not so typical Hollywood star. If you have seen him in Interview or Details magazine a couple of years ago we probably think alike...he also looks good shirtless and in leather pants.
Speaking of icons, I was wondering what relationship you have to Tom of Finland's life and work?
During junior high school years I secretly VHS taped from my mother Ilppo Pohjola`s Daddy and the Muscle Academy when it was on a telly as a night time documentary. The film is about Tom Of Finland. While watching it the next day after school while mother was shopping or something I was like, “what is this, this is something new and strange!”. And I actually got a bit scared of huge nipples in the film. I thought that this is the future life for me too - HUGE nipples, they will grow soon! I already had strange feelings much earlier for boys because of Han Solo`s tight pants and leather boots but no one ever talked about men’s big nipples, I was confused and was left alone to wait for nipples to grow.
Many years after I found my first boyfriend. He was older than me and he knew Tom of Finland`s last drawing model just before artist`s death. That is the closest thing I ever got to this great man, I was dating a man who knew the guy from Touko Laaksonen`s last drawing. I should add this to my CV.
Nowadays I have seen Tom of Finland’s work from a near distance. His skill was phenomenal and he was one of the bravest men ever. He should have known this from a mainstream audience before his death. He is the best known Finnish man in the world.
What is the ethos behind My Lost Uncle?
When I started this project I was working with my real name and My Lost Uncle was the name for the project only. Later I added MissingSince1979 to that name and I started to wonder if it was a bit different, because the name My Lost Uncle – MissingSince1979 itself tells a story about a man. My real uncle went missing when I was a child and I was always really fascinated about that story. The times were then the beginning of 80`s. I was told that he disappeared because he went his own ways just leaving others behind or he couldn’t live in this society: sometimes he was gay, was in prison, died, whatever. People usually just want to imagine reasons and tell things from their own perspective as the truth. Actual truth is that no one really knew the reasons. The way how this all reflects to my work is that I feel alive while working independently. When I do what I like the most I am following my uncle’s path as an inspiration, but not losing myself through it. This all also means that the ethos is a freedom to express myself or my kind of people.
What are you working on next?
There are lot of artists, singers, actors, dancers, athletes, even bus drivers etc. who are behaving passionately with their work. I think it is really fascinating that a man gives everything for something or someone. As I have said I am looking for inspiration mainly from the popular culture, so it will probably be like this next time too. I have done some researching about few guys whose work have had a huge effect on me, I mean how I can see art and listen to music this time. These inspirational men were super passionate for their professions. I think there will be some moustache, more and more bright colors and furry warm softness with 80’s graphics.
Everything will be released as collection sets during 2018. I do not make seasonal collections and there is no hurry yet. You will be informed.
Now go and check Hustler White Unidentified <3