DAN McCARTHY HAD just become the resident of a stately Victorian schoolhouse at the foot of the Catskill Mountains when he realized that a building, like a person, lives multiple lives. In 2014, when he was 52 and in what he refers to as “the end of act two,” the artist packed up his apartment of nearly 30 years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and set out for a new life a few hours north of Manhattan in a three-story, Romanesque stone structure with an impressive Dutch gable and panoramic views of the Hudson Valley. The move, though overwhelming, brought immediate relief. Ceramics had given McCarthy’s career a welcome jolt — two months before he left the city, Anton Kern, his gallerist at the time, had shown a series of his expressive clay vessel Facepots — but sales for his crudely rendered oil paintings weren’t what they had been in the 1990s; what he fantasized about most was escaping New York’s market-driven art scene.
Ugo Rondinone and a daybed inspired by Donald Judd and fabricated with marine-grade fir plywood add to the space’s meditative mood. “I moved to New York to become famous,” he says. “But at a certain point, I realized that the greatest thing would be freedom. … Disconnecting from the city was about disconnecting from who I was there.” (Tellingly, one of his home’s only reminders of New York — framed strips of photo booth self-portraits by Andy Warhol, torn from an auction catalog — are down in the basement with his two kilns.)
Steven Kretchmer acquired it in the 1990s. Kretchmer replaced the arched windows and pivoting portholes, many of which had been smashed by vandals; installed new red oak floors; and restored the chalkboards that wrap around the dining room and punctuate the second-floor living room. He also preserved the heavy wooden doors that open from those common areas onto a grand hall, the echoing heart of the house, with a cathedral ceiling stained dark auburn that extends beyond the original cornice to a height of 26 feet.