McCarthy paints on the ground floor. (He sleeps on the second floor, one story up, but keeps a small, monastic bedroom next to his studio for when he works late into the night.) In a way, his workshop serves as a memorial to his idyllic, sun-kissed first act, the souvenirs of which he’s preserved. Taxidermy fish that he found online decorate the space, reminding him of his time working on fishing boats as a teenager in the late ’70s. In an eastern-facing room, where the morning light washes his art with a rosy glow, acrylic paintings stretched onto half-moon canvases resemble psychedelic rainbows, many of them with simple phrases evocative of people and places from his youth: “the Damned” (a band), “the Starwood” (a rock venue) and “Infinity Surfboards” (a shop). “These were the paintings I made when I first moved here,” he says. “Maybe it was a way to reach back to a time when I felt comfortable and safe.” Against the opposite wall are 18 of his newest paintings, which he spent the past two years finishing. On those canvases, people dance naked, their arms outstretched in fits of ecstasy, oblivious to the rainbows flowing directly into their heads.

As he reaches the bottom of the stairs leading into a whitewashed basement, he pauses in front of a monumental display of beaming Facepots, ranging in height from 18 to 22 inches: row upon row of creations that appear alternately, and somehow all at once, dopey, surprised, malevolent, sarcastic, sanguine, joyful and downright deranged. They feel, he says, however we want them to feel, or maybe how we’re feeling ourselves. “The mood varies from pot to pot,” he says over the clanking of the boiler. “They go out into the world, and they occur to people in different ways. We’re the ones who make them ours and fill them with meaning. They’re just vessels, after all.” The same, of course, can be said for the rooms that surround us.

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