The colors and textures of the statue come as a bit of a surprise, with a jacket carved from deep green nephrite jade, collared in bright pink Norwegian thulite. His trousers are fashioned from sparkling blue pearl granite, with shoes that seem to be spit-shined from polished black granite. His face might seem a bit of a puzzle until you consider the intention of the sculptor, Danny Osborne, whose goal was to capture what he sees as the dual nature of Wilde – at once joyous and somber, both comedy and tragedy – looks that are captured on opposite sides of the face. The life-size statue of Wilde is flanked by two smaller bronzes, both atop polished granite plinths engraved with quotes from Wilde’s work. The first bronze is Osborne’s image of Wilde’s pregnant wife, Constance, and the second is his interpretation of Dionysus, the Greek god of the vine and the theater, by means of a simple male torso.
For sixty or seventy years after Wilde’s death, critics and audiences regarded The Importance of Being Earnest as a delightful but utterly frivolous and superficial comedy, a view that partly reflects the mindset of a period in which homosexuality remained a guarded topic. The decriminalization of homosexuality in England in 1967 and the emergence in American of an interest in gay culture, and particularly in the covert homosexual literature of the past, has made it possible to view the play in a different light. The play’s danger and subversion are easier to see from a twenty-first-century perspective. In the ambiguity over exactly what people refer to when they speak of “wicked” or immoral behavior, we can detect a system of coded references to homosexuality, just as we can infer a more general comment on the hypocrisy of late Victorian society.