"When people think of the past, they think about how horrible it was,” says McGough, half of McDermott and McGough. “As a visual person, as a metaphysician, I think of how beautiful it was." Since the early ’90s, the artistic, nostalgia-obsessed pair have collaborated across the Atlantic, a difficult feat considering McDermott resides in Ireland, resists email, and travels only by train and boat; McGough, on the other hand, lives in a 1930s Manhattan apartment outfitted with authentic vintage décor and appliances.
In their 2010 short Mean to Me (trailer at right), British supermodel Agyness Deyn stars as a 1930s film noir vixen quarreling with her lover. Inspired by Fritz Lang, Luis Buñuel, and Jean Cocteau, among other classic filmmakers, the period drama further engages the cinematic subjects and effects McDermott and McGough have been exploring for decades in their paintings and photographs.