Celebrated Artist Duo McDermott & McGough
to Unveil the Oscar Wilde Temple in New York City
A Collaboration Between the Artists, The LGBT Community Center of New York City, and The Church of the Village Memorializes Leaders in the Fight for Equality
September 11 –December 2, 2017
The Church of the Village
201 West 13th Street (at 7th Avenue), New York City
New York…On September 11, 2017, noted artists David McDermott and Peter McGough will unveil The Oscar Wilde Temple, an ambitious public installation work two decades in the making, 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. The refusal of famed Irish author, novelist, poet, and playwright Oscar Wilde (1864-1900) to hide his sexuality even when faced with imprisonment and hard labor, has resonated with McDermott & McGough since the outset of their collaborative practice in the midst of the bohemian East Village art scene of the 1980s. Wilde’s example as an enemy of homophobia remains a bellwether of modern activism and is the basis for McDermott & McGough’s installation, which combines painting, sculpture, and site specific elements in a functioning environment that recalls the beautiful and provocative sensuousness of the Aesthetic Movement Wilde championed.
On view through December 2nd and organized by independent curator Alison Gingeras, The Oscar Wilde Temple will be housed inside The Church of the Village on West 13th Street in the heart of the Greenwich Village Historic District in New York City. Its presentation coincides with McDermott & McGough: I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going, the duo’s museum retrospective opening at the Dallas Contemporary in Texas on October 1, 2017. In 2018, The Oscar Wilde Temple will travel to London, where it will be presented at Studio Voltaire.
The Temple project has been realized through a synergistic collaboration between The Church of the Village and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City (The Center), a joint effort conceived to foster deeper ties between the two institutions and to expand the community services they offer. The Temple will be available for private ceremonies, including weddings, memorials, naming services, and other celebrations, on a reservation basis. All proceeds from such private events, as well as ongoing public donations to the Temple, will support The Center’s programs for LGBTQ youth at risk of homelessness.
“For more than twenty years, we have wanted to create ‘The Stations of Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol,’ echoing the Catholic Church’s iconography and the ritual purpose of the Stations of the Cross,” explained Peter McGough, citing the English prison where Wilde was incarcerated after being convicted of "homosexual offences" in 1895 and sentenced to two years of hard labor. “Wilde’s story has exerted enormous influence upon our personal and artistic journey. 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.”
David McDermott noted, “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." The Oscar Wilde Temple has received major support from The Andy Warhol Foundation and from patrons Dorothy Berwin; Laurent Claquin; Richard Edwards; Marc Payot and Susanne Mack Payot; Mark Fletcher and Tobias Meyer; Alex Ortuzar; Ugo Rondinone; Cindy Sherman; and Gordon Veneklasen. Additional support for the Temple project has come from the members of its Advisory Committee: Carroll Dunham; Carol Greene; Robert Gober; Roni Horn; Jonathan Horowitz; Julie Mehretu; Marilyn Minter; Rob Pruitt; Andrea Schwan; Siddhartha Shukla; and Laurie Simmons.
The Oscar Wilde Temple will transform the Russell Chapel within the Church of the Village into a Victorian era environment. The installation has been conceived by McDermott & McGough to transport visitors back to the precise moment of Wilde’s visit to America in 1882-83, with an Aesthetic Movement interior suggesting the world in which Wilde lived, worked, and loved. Specially made fabric wall coverings, architectural and decorative details, furnishings and lighting exemplify the longstanding art-life practice that the duo has described as a “time experiment,” in which the boundaries of chronology, art history, and cultural identity are strategically upended in order to open the minds of viewers to universal themes, aesthetic discoveries, and spiritual byways.
The centerpiece of the Temple is a central altar built around 4’ 3” figure of Oscar Wilde, carved in linden wood in a devotional style and 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, Wilde’s prison number at Reading Gaol – C.33 – appears. Framing each side of the statue will be eight “stations,” paintings tracing Wilde’s journey from arrest through imprisonment, and his sentence of two years’ hard labor. Inspired by the Stations of the Cross paintings at Notre-Dame-des-Champs cathedral in Avranches, France, and based upon engravings from English newspapers (The Star, The Illustrated Police Budget, The Illustrated Police News) that chronicled Wilde’s dramatic trial and the spectacle of his public humiliation, each canvas has been rendered by McDermott & McGough in a color palette of deep Limoges blue. In this pictorial retelling of Wilde’s sensational downfall, the artists have depicted Wilde as a divine soul, adding gilded flourishes to each work to communicate his suffering and martyrdom.
To one side of this central Wilde altar is a secondary altar, conceived by McDermott & McGough as a designated place for honoring those who have died from AIDS and those still suffering worldwide. Here, McDermott & McGough’s 1987 painting Advent Infinite Divine Spirit, is accompanied by 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.
The Temple also features McDermott & McGough’s portraits of key contemporary ‘martyrs’ of homophobia and the AIDS epidemic whose sacrifices have contributed to awareness and change. Among these are Alan Turing (1912-1954), considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence; Harvey Milk (1930-1978), the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California; Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992), an African- American transwoman, sex worker, and gay liberation activist who played a central role in the Stonewall uprising; Brandon Teena (1972-1993), a transgendered boy from Lincoln, Nebraska, whose brutal rape and murder became a powerful symbol of transphobia in America; Xulhaz Mannan (1976-2016), murdered employee of the U.S. Embassy in Dkaka and founder of Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s first and only LGBT Magazine; and Sakia Gunn (1987-2003), a 15- year-old African-American lesbian who was stabbed in the chest while defending her sexuality in Newark, New Jersey.
Additionally, the Temple will include plaques that commemorate two ministers from The Church of the Village’s own history – Rev. Paul M. Abels and Rev. C. Edward Egan – who were forced out of pastoral ministry in 1977 and 1984 for being gay, and whose courage and commitment to love and justice were recently celebrated by The Church of the Village and others.
The Oscar Wilde Temple is also McDermott & McGough's celebration of the creative process through which experience is transformed into art, and reality is abstracted into revelation. Wilde translated his own journey – from a life of marked extravagance and pleasure, through the harshest realities of prison and being shunned by society – into two significant works of art. While in prison he wrote “De Profundis” (1897), a long letter tracing his psychological experience of the trials that brought him to Reading Gaol. And his final work, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1898), took the form of an epic poem describing the experience of his traumatic incarceration.
About McDermott & McGough
David McDermott and Peter McGough (born 1952 and 1958 respectively) have collaborated on a unique, all-encompassing art practice since 1980—entwining their life and art into an unprecedented gesamtkunstwerk that explores issues of gay identity, societal repression, and performative time travel.
Known simply by their linked surnames, McDermott & McGough achieved notoriety in the bohemian downtown quarters of New York in the 1980s via their self-imposed immersion in the Victorian era. Their dress, their home, their art studios (down to the materials and techniques they deployed) were strictly faithful to late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through this “time experiment,” McDermott & McGough have consistently challenged the chronological boundaries of art history and cultural identity with a wide-ranging practice that encompasses photography, painting, sculpture, and installation works. Their art frequently addresses the homoerotic aspects of Victorian culture while simultaneously acknowledging the oppressive politics of the same period.
About The LGBT Center
Established in 1983, New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center celebrates diversity and advocates for justice and opportunity. Each year, The Center welcomes more than 300,000 visits to its building in the historic West Village neighborhood of Manhattan, where it offers a wide array of life-changing and life-saving programs and services.
The Center works to address the needs of LBGT youth who are homeless or at risk for homelessness through numerous initiatives, including housing assistance; life-changing stipended internships that encourage economic empowerment; family counseling services; and a youth speaker’s bureau that raises awareness of the challenges facing LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system.
About the Church of the Village
The Church of the Village is a progressive, radically inclusive, and anti-racist United Methodist church situated on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 13th Street, directly across street from The Center. Led by Pastor Jeff Wells and Pastor Elyse Ambrose, its mission includes celebrating human diversity and embracing radical inclusivity. They welcome people of every color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, economic status, and mental and physical ability. The Church proudly asserts its strong belief in social justice, advocates for persons experiencing poverty and oppression, and provides food assistance through its Hope For Our Neighbors in Need (HNN) pantry and community meal. The Church of the Village also seeks to aide its guests through working with other social service, housing, employment assistance, and counseling programs to help break the cycle of poverty. The Church of the Village was the site of the founding chapter of the national support group PFLAG— formerly Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. PFLAG (then “Parents of Gays” began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. After the outpouring of LGBT youth that occurred in seeing Manford’s parental advocacy for her gay son she formed PFLAG and held the first meetings at The Church of the Village beginning in the spring of 1973.
Visiting The Oscar Wilde Temple
The public may visit the Oscar Wilde Temple Tuesday through Saturday, from noon – 7pm. On Sundays, The Church of the Village hosts a worship service of the Village Deaf Church in this room.
For information about booking weddings or other ceremonies in the Oscar Wilde Chapel please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The website http://oscarwildetemple.org/ will be regularly updated to reflect public programming that will be held over the course of the Temple’s operations, including a public talk with the artists McDermott & McGough and the curator Alison Gingeras in early October 2017.
Andrea Schwan, Andrea Schwan Inc., email@example.com