The Snow White project, which will make its debut at the Park Avenue Armory in New York on June 19, is — even for an artist whose subject is outsize spectacle — a monster. It necessitated the creation of an 8,800-square-foot artificial forest, filled with glowering brown plastic-foam trees whose branches undulate more than 20 feet into the air, concealing in their midst what enchanted forests often do: a cottage. This one, however, owed nothing to the Brothers Grimm or Gustave Doré or Disney. It was a faithful replica of the canary yellow ranch house in Salt Lake City where McCarthy himself was raised, the son of a liberal Mormon homemaker and a grocery-store butcher. In its evocation of childhood set amid a kind of pop catastrophe, the project is quintessential McCarthy. For four decades, his version of American Gothic has been so perverse and outrageous, bloody and scatological, that it remains disturbing for even art-world initiates.

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