by Jennie MATTHEW A secular temple devoted to Oscar Wilde opened in the basement of a New York church Tuesday, crammed with devotional style religious art to honor a trailblazer of gay rights.
Those involved in the project said it had been 20 years in the making but with transgender rights under threat from President Donald Trump’s administration and gays feeling more discrimination, it was more timely than ever.
Conceived by artists David McDermott and Peter McGough at The Church of the Village,
Wilde, the Irish wit and playwright, was convicted of gross indecency, sentenced in 1895 to two years hard
“He invoked all of us to rebel, that it was the inherent quality of human beings to be rebellious, to move society, to be individual,” said curator Alison Gingeras, who organized the project.
McDermott said the temple was a place “free of religious doctrine,
Pastor Jeff Wells welcomed the collaboration, saying the installation “fits so deeply into the ethos of this congregation, which we call radically inclusive.”
The church, which has a strong LGBTQ contingent, is located in the heart of Greenwich Village near the Stonewall Inn, a landmark of the gay rights movement in the United States.
“The Oscar Wilde Temple” transforms a basement chapel, which will continue to serve as a place of worship for deaf congregants on Sundays, back to 1882-83, the time of Wilde’s lecture tour to America.
Wilde wrote the “Ballad of Reading Gaol” under the pseudonym of that number, C33, after fleeing in exile and disgrace to France.
On the walls, hang seven oil and gold leaf canvases on linen based on newspaper coverage of his trial and imprisonment, and inspired by the Stations of the Cross paintings at the cathedral in Avranches, France.
All proceeds from private events and donations to the Temple will go to support LGBTQ youth at risk of homelessness.
“We hope that this temple is a place that is really used,” said Gingeras. It will remain open until December 2 before moving to London.
McDermott and McGough, who have collaborated
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