David McDermott and Peter McGough, an artistic duo who once spent 15 years as top hat-wearing Victorian gentlemen living in Manhattan’s East Village, will soon transform The Church of the Village in New York City into “The Oscar Wilde Temple,” an immersive art installation meant to honor the queer Irish writer and his struggle to live authentically in a homophobic society.
From Sept. 11 to Dec. 2, 2017, McDermott and McGough will transform the church’s Russell Chapel (located at 201 West 13th Street near 7th Avenue in Manhattan) into a Victorian-era environment meant to “transport visitors back to the precise moment of Wilde’s visit to America” around 1882.
What will The Oscar Wilde Temple look like?
The installation will feature “specially made fabric wall coverings, architectural and decorative details, furnishings and lighting.” The temple’s centerpiece will be a four-foot-three-inch wooden figure of Wilde carved in the iconic devotional style. Its pedestal will have C.33 carved into it, the number of Wilde’s prison cell in Reading Gaol, the jail where he was imprisoned in 1895 for gross indecency with men.
The sides of the carved figure will feature eight painted scenes depicting Wilde’s journey from arrest through imprisonment, inspired by the Stations of the Cross (artistic depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ) and English newspaper engravings depicting Wilde’s public humiliation.
To the side of the centerpiece will be a secondary altar commemorating “those who have died from AIDS and those still suffering worldwide,” with “a votive candle stand, a book for visitors wishing to inscribe tributes to loved ones, and space for leaving mementos for those who have been lost to AIDS.”
How does The Oscar Wilde Temple connect to modern LGBTQ struggles?
“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,” McDermott said, adding that this history intersects with the modern day struggle to embrace diversity.
The Temple will also feature McDermott & McGough’s portraits of contemporary ‘martyrs’ of homophobia and AIDS including disgraced WWII computer scientist Alan Turing, assassinated civil rights hero Harvey Milk, trans Stonewall veteran Marsha P. Johnson, murdered transman Brandon Teena, slaughtered Bangladesh magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan and murdered lesbian Sakia Gunn.
During the installation, any proceeds from chapel rentals and public donations will support The LGBT Community Center of New York’s programs helping LGBTQ youth at risk of homelessness.