Worship A Gay Martyr At The Oscar Wilde Temple

Artists McDermott & McGough take the legendary writer to church.

Lovers of Oscar Wilde will have soon a proper place to worship the iconic Irish wit and writer.

Artist duo David McDermott and Peter McGough, better known as McDermott & McGough, will unveil the Oscar Wilde Temple, a public installation two decades in the making, in New York this fall.

Presented in collaboration with the New York LGBT Center and the Church of the Village, the installation will combine painting, sculpture, and site-specific elements designed to transport visitors back to the time of Wilde’s 1882-83 visit to America.

Courtesy of the Artists

The exhibit is “conceived as a welcoming secular space to honor one of the earliest and most courageous forebears in the centuries-long struggle for gay liberation and to celebrate the fight for equality,” according to a press release. The artists were particularly inspired by Wilde’s refusal to hide his sexuality even when faced with imprisonment and hard labor.

“Wilde’s story has exerted enormous influence upon our personal and artistic journey,” McGough says. “With such recent milestones as the same-sex marriage act voted and passed in Ireland, the official landmarking of New York’s Stonewall Inn as the birthplace of the gay liberation movement in the United States, and the Supreme Court decision to protect the equal right of marriage for same-sex couples across America, we have finally found an opportune moment to realize the work we’ve long dreamed of making.”

“The Temple is to be a place free of religious doctrine, honoring a watershed historical figure who pioneered the long struggle for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender peoples—a struggle that has intersected with our nation’s larger effort to acknowledge, accept, embrace, and draw strength from the profound diversity that makes society stronger and enriches the lives of all people,” McDermott adds.

Courtesy of the Artists

McDermott & McGough, who blossomed in the bohemian 1980s East Village art scene, frequently address the oppressive yet homoerotic nature of Victorian culture in their work.

The centerpiece of the Temple is an altar built around a carved wooden figure of Oscar Wilde, framed by paintings tracing Wilde’s journey from his 1895 arrest through his two-year imprisonment for “gross indecency,” inspired by the Stations of the Cross. A secondary altar will honor AIDS victims.

The Temple will also feature McDermott & McGough’s portraits of contemporary “martyrs” of homophobia and the AIDS epidemic, including Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Xulhaz Mannan, and Sakia Gunn.

Courtesy of the Artists

The Oscar Wilde Temple will be open September 11 through December 2 at the Church of the Village, a progressive and inclusive United Methodist church located across from the LGBT Center.

Proceeds from private events held at the Temple will support the Center’s programs for LGBT youth at risk of homelessness.

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