It is a footnote on how the queer community must often rejoice and suffer in equal measure. And the dim mood lighting of the temple recalls that of a funerary chapel, creating an atmosphere of meditation and mourning. The Victorian fabric covering many of the temple walls is florid but altogether muted in a silent, muddy palette. Votive candles in purple-tinted glass dot the temple’s landscape, asking us to remember the dead.
Turning to McDermott and McGough’s main focus, the deification of Wilde, we see a variety of mementos and devotionals. Paintings, sculptures, and quotations argue for Wilde’s foresight and forbearance on queer history. The most elaborate of these examples is Oscar Wilde Altarpiece (2017), which depicts Wilde as a kind of Roman god or Catholic saint. Wilde stands in his iconic Victorian dandy garb, hands clasped and chin pushed slightly up to confer a sense of grace. He is perched above his prison number from Reading Gaol, C.33, in a triumphant yet relaxed posture.
Just behind the figure, a stained-glass image of Jesus peers into the temple, his image beckoning viewers to connect Wilde’s narrative to a number of Christian martyrs who willfully died for what they believed in. This sly juxtaposition makes a case for Wilde’s sanctification as the unofficial icon of queer suffering.