Monumental Sculptures at Pondside

An old barn is now an artist’s think tank
The bigger barn of two in the complex was moved from New England by the artist David Porter, who once lived and worked there. Lucy Winton is at left.

When Bryan Hunt was looking for somewhere to live on the East End in 1991, a friend suggested he call David Porter, an artist who also happened to be a real estate broker. The idea was that Porter would understand Mr. Hunt’s sensibility, and he did.

Porter suggested a property he knew well. At a little over two acres on the Wainscott side of Georgica Pond, it had an expansive lawn that rolled down to the water and three buildings that had been originally two barns and a chicken coop.

It turned out that Porter and his wife, Marion, had lived there, moving the bigger of the barns from New England and assembling it for use as a studio. The other barn had been a house since the 1940s, and they later added the chicken coop, a part of the house that connects it and the studio.

“Buying this was the smartest thing I ever did,” Mr. Hunt said while showing a visitor the grounds, which are perfect for his monumental bronze sculptures. Two that are there this summer are from his iconic “Waterfalls” series, a third from “Water Works.”

Mr. Hunt and his companion, Lucy Winton, enjoy the pond although, given the bacteria found in its waters in the last two years, they don’t swim in it. “We have our own little regatta. We paddleboard, kayak, and canoe,” Ms. Winton said. Except for hurricanes, the pond is as high as Mr. Hunt ever remembers its having been, although residents have been asking the East Hampton Town Trustees, who own it on behalf of the public, to open it to the ocean.

While his house is higher than the pond and set well back, other houses have flooded basements. As he pointed out trees whose visible roots were covered with water, Mr. Hunt said, “Global warming has trickled down to this.”

The flooding is bad this year because the traditional spring opening of the pond did not occur due to weather conditions and the earlier-than-usual arrival of federally protected piping plovers that nest in the dunes. The trustees are awaiting federal approval before opening it.

The front door opens into the chicken coop, which is the narrowest part of the house. “When you walk into the coop, you’re outside,” Mr. Hunt said. The side opposite the door opens directly onto a sun-drenched patio and, beyond, a trellis-covered seating area.

That this part of the house was once a chicken coop seems incongruous in view of the art on the walls by David Salle, Judy Hudson, Eric Fischl, Ralph Gibson, and Ms. Winton. A pineapple fountain built by Mr. Hunt for a house he lived in in Andalucia, Spain, from 1986 to 1993, is on the patio. A grill he designed occupies a corner of the terrace. “If you’re into charcoal,” he said, “I call it the ulti-grill. I see it as Shaker meets Donald Judd.” It is clear the couple spend a lot of time outside.

 The vaulted ceiling of the original house’s combined living room, dining room, and kitchen, and its unobstructed space, are the only visual clues that it was once a barn. Mr. Hunt designed and built the dining table from steel and three slabs of mahogany.

He also made the candlesticks from cast glass and forged steel and, in the living room, steel and copper floor lamps and a table lamp. “When I see the prices of things I like, I say, ‘I’ll build it myself.’ If you have the patience to do it, and the ability, it’s worth it.” Gemini G.E.L., a prominent Los Angeles publisher of fine-art limited-edition prints and sculptures, reproduced each of those elements in an edition of three.

Speaking of the original structure, Mr. Hunt said, “We didn’t have to do too much to this wing. I bought it from a German couple, and inside it was like Heidi’s house, or Hansel and Gretel’s. There were curtains over all the windows and small, decorative objects everywhere.” The curtains are gone, and the  artwork has replaced the decorative objects.

The bigger barn, at the other side of the chicken coop, still feels and looks like a barn, a vast open space with a high vaulted ceiling. It had been Mr. Hunt’s studio, but he and Ms. Winton now have adjoining studios on Wainscott Main Street in a whitewashed barn with large roll-up garage doors. The original Porter studio is now his “think thank,” where he makes sketches, scale models for large sculptures, and otherwise works out ideas.

There are several pieces of sculpture in the barn, including a study for “Axis Mundi,” the only piece of sculpture commissioned for 1 World Trade Center. Thirteen feet tall, it occupies the east side of the building’s sky lobby. Its title means a celestial pole or the center of the world.

An indoor swimming pool was once inside the barn; it’s still there, but Mr. Hunt covered it with a wooden floor. He also added large Corten steel windows and a deck. Its expansive loft can be used as a sleeping area for guests.

Another house that is close to Mr. Hunt’s heart, and for which he provided a sculpture, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pa.  In 1979, Edgar Kauffman Jr., for whom Fallingwater was built, commissioned Mr. Hunt to create one of his waterfall sculptures for the house, and he was able to stay in a cabin downstream while working on it.

Thinking about Fallingwater, he summed up how he feels about his own place: “This is such a funky house, but you’ve got to love it.”


 

Left to right, “Axis Mundi,” which is in the sky lobby of 1 World Trade Center, is seen as a maquette. “Flume I,” of cast aluminum, is from Bryan Hunt’s Waterworks series. “Charioteer,” from the artist’s Waterfall series, was cast in bronze. Georgica Pond seems to encroach on the cast stainless steel “Calm II.”
A view through the living room to the dining room offers a sense of the house’s origin as a barn.
Bryan Hunt and Lucy Winton shared a laugh in the studio, which is now used as a think tank.
The front door opens into what had been a chicken coop, the smallest of three components.
The sculptor designed and built the dining table and the candlesticks.
Hand-embroidered portraits of the artists by Christa Maiwald are from her “Blue Chip” series.