For This Artist Duo, a Third Act: A Shrine to Oscar Wilde

The temple, which takes over the Russell Chapel at the Church of the Village on 13th Street from Sept. 11 to Dec. 2, will be an Aesthetic Movement–style shrine with paintings, sculptures and rows of chairs for worshipers amid faux-painted columns meant to resemble crumbling stone.

It will be available for weddings and other ceremonies, with proceeds going to the youth and family programs at the church’s neighbor across the street, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. The center collaborated on the project with the Church of the Village, and it was organized by the independent curator Alison Gingeras.

In his Bushwick studio last month, Mr. McGough, 59, excitedly showed off the temple components. “I always loved Oscar Wilde because he was a complete fop,” he said. “He’s the deity of the religion.”

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McDermott & McGough’s “Reading Gaol” paintings, depicting scenes from Oscar Wilde’s life, will be part of the “Oscar Wilde Temple.”

Credit
Andrew White for The New York Times

Mr. McGough — robustly healthy these days and dressed in a natty cream-colored suit on a humid afternoon — was surrounded by eight gold-and-blue “Reading Gaol” paintings, named for the prison where Wilde did hard labor after being convicted of sodomy and “gross indecency.” They depict Wilde undergoing the Stations of the Cross, complete with gilded halo, in the style of a Victorian police gazette. In front of Mr. McGough was a smooth, four-foot-tall wooden sculpture of Wilde, the show’s centerpiece.

Also on view will be six “martyr paintings” depicting more recently persecuted figures including Brandon Teena, Harvey Milk and Alan Turing, and a side chapel dedicated to AIDS, with devotional candles and a mystical-looking painting called “Advent Infinite Divine Spirit.” The pulpit is an overturned soapbox.

The two artists have been talking about such a project for more than 20 years. “The idea has evolved and changed,” Mr. McDermott, 65, wrote in an email from Dublin. He added that for him, summoning Wilde represented a return to “civilization” after a 100-year decline.

Despite their ups and downs, the former couple still collaborate, and have shuttled back and forth among Ireland, England (where they are setting up a studio) and New York, where they are represented by the…

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