This month, The Russell Chapel within The Church of the Village has been transformed into a space honoring one of the earliest forebears in the struggle for gay liberation. The installation, entitled The Oscar Wilde Temple, is the creation of noted artists David McDermott and Peter McGough, and includes painting, sculpture, and site specific elements, recalling a time of “provocative sensuousness of the Aesthetic Movement Wilde championed.”
Two decades in the making, The Temple project is a collaboration between The Church of the Village and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City (The Center). It’s curated by Alison Gingeras, in a join effort to foster deeper ties between the two institutions, and in an effort to expand the community services they offer. It also reaffirms how far the movement has come, and the vigilance it takes to continue progress.
Above is a 4-foot, 3-inch sculptural figure of Oscar Wilde, carved in linden wood, based upon the iconic portrait of the author made by the American photographer Napoleon Sarony in his Union Square studio in 1882. On the pedestal below is Wilde’s prison number at the British prison, Reading Gaol – C33.
Above and below are The Eight Stations of Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol, echoing the Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross. They invoke the English prison where Wilde was incarcerated after being convicted of “homosexual offenses” in 1895 and sentenced to two years of hard labor. The paintings trace Wilde’s journey from arrest through imprisonment, and sentencing.
Each of these canvases has been rendered by McDermott & McGough in a color palate of deep Limoges blue with gilded flourishes.
Below is a wall devoted to portraits of key contemporary ‘martyrs’ of homophobia and the AIDS epidemic. They include Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Xulhaz Mannan, and Sakia Gunn. Additionally, The Temple will include plaques commemorating two ministers from The Church of the Village, Rev. Paul M. Abels and Rev. C. Edward Egan, who were forced out of pastoral ministry for being gay.
During this installation, The Temple’s intimate space will be available for private ceremonies, including weddings and memorial services. All proceeds from private events will support The Center’s programs for LGBTQ youth at risk of homelessness.
Above is a secondary alter honoring those who have died from AIDS and those who are still suffering worldwide. McDermott & McGough’s 1987 painting Advent Infinite Divine Spirit, is accompanied by a votive candle stand, and a book for visitors to inscribe tributes.
The intimate space holding the installation, The Oscar Wilde Temple, with artist Peter McGough standing
The Oscar Wilde Temple, a public art work, will be on view through December 2, 2017, in the Russell Chapel of The Church of the Village located at 201 West 13th Street, on the corner of Seventh Avenue South. It is free and open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 7 p.m. Check the schedule for related events.
This presentation coincides with McDermott & McGough: I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going, a museum retrospective opening at the Dallas Contemporary in Texas this month. The entire installation of The Oscar Wilde Temple will travel to London in 2018, where it will be presented at Studio Voltaire.
Check out 18 Art Installations and Exhibits Not to Miss in September, and sign-up for Upcoming Untapped Cities Tours this Week, including a tour of the historic Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village. You can contact the author at AFineLyne.