Marisa Dipaola, USA / Portugal

Residency Period: 1 August 2016 - 31 July 2017


Marisa Dipaola was born barefoot on December 12th, 1977, and grew up in the cedar swamps and coastal Atlantic of southern New Jersey. She graduated with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 where she majored in painting and began experimenting with site-specific sculptural installations. Upon graduation, Marisa received a travel grant to study la Mezquita, in Cordoba, Spain, which began a collection of travels to eighteen countries, studying the sacred architecture and natural wonders, producing site-specific artworks in Japan and Iceland as well as entire series of artwork while on residence in Spain, India, Italy, Egypt, Austria, and Bahrain.

She has exhibited her works internationally at museums, galleries, universities, cultural institutions, community gathering places, outdoors within natural sculptural parks and urban revitalization projects.


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

In the course of being a nomadic artist, Marisa Dipaola has wandered throughout the landscape in diverse surroundings, constantly inspired by the natural world that embraces us all. After residing in the southern Austrian Alps for three years, she and her family are ready for a road trip to move to southern Portugal, in order to buy and renovate an old farm as a sustainable, permaculture project: moonfarmers. Raising her three-year old daughter while this major project is on the go, she is unable to foresee any free-time to take part in the artworld, at least for a year or so. Instead, she will dedicate her time and artistic effort to turning an abandoned property into a sustainable small farm and retreat, and quite possibly a future artist residency.

Her time will be spent with rebuilding a sustainable habitation, sourcing and planting fruit and nut trees, native edibles, sacred seeds, establishing berry patches, grape vines, mushroom patches, a chicken coop, a small fish pond, a huge vegetable patch. She will use sculptural elements to create terraced farming areas, enhance microclimates and enable year-round cultivation courtesy of cold frames fashioned from old windows as well as illuminating indoor growing areas, a few wind-chimes, alternative-energy-generating works, and the interior redesign & redecoration of their living space. On a more scientific front, she hopes to incorporate the skills she learns during this time to create various sculptural projects that encourage growth, combining illuminated works with fungal works and garden projects to create sustainable, living artworks. Any additional free time she finds will be spent mending clothes from the pile she’s had gathering for years and to complete more butterfly carpets -- and there is that quilt she has wanted to make for her bedroom.

She hopes that the time working and reflecting while on-hiatus from the artworld, but proceeding with her moonfarmers project will guide the future, whichever way it grows.

Final Report

After taking a little hiatus from being "on hiatus"
I have had a chance to reflect upon this past year:
how far we've come as moonfarmers,
and how wide open our future can be.

Or perhaps I haven't really been "on hiatus" at all.
Years ago, I did an oil painting of a little wooden cottage,
set amongst a flowering garden, aptly named "storybook cottage"
for its allusions to an imaginary, out-of-a-storybook world.
I eventually used the painting as a proposal sketch
for "storybook cottage" a knitted inhabitable playhouse sculpture
I (& Mohamed) made for an exhibition title "There's No Place Like Home"
at the Paul Robeson Gallery of Rutgers Newark, New Jersey, in 2013.

Coming together in the final moments, the sculpture was visually satisfying:
and at the opening, a hit with the toddlers (& their parents) visiting the exhibition.
But under its intricate surface, this knitted world was only an illusion,
and an indication of my desire for a real storybook cottage to inhabit.

So here we are.
This ongoing project,
or series of projects,
has only just begun.

And yes, I intend to keep some sort of online account
of how we are progressing, with all our various activities
(something I wouldn't have thought of doing without
the encouragement of the RFAOH community).

But this year being on hiatus has given me time to reflect on what else I can be,
how much further, and farther, my life can take me than simply being an artist.

And funny, everything I thought I'd be doing once I was "off" hiatus
(like keeping up with other correspondences & re-entering the art-world)
I hadn't really thought of lately.

Instead, I've been sitting in the shade watching our garden grow,
watching flower petals unfold and bees buzzing from blossom to blossom.
And watching the stars shine, and finally seeing the owl I'd been hearing lately.

Mohamed had recently told a lady,
who had asked if I had been painting,
that "yes, marisa has been painting with water..."
meaning that I had scattered seeds throughout our yard
and as I spray water across the land,
vibrant colors and forms come to life.

But now that it's August, I have really been "on hiatus" from technology,
including emails and taking photos (& apologies to my parents for that);
and instead, focused more on Marmalade's story-time and creative play
(which reminded me of the years ago I spent teaching arts to children
& the years before when I was Marmalade's age, in my own imaginary world),
and reading (especially as a new book on companion planting just arrived from my Dad),
and materials-collecting for our home and gardening projects.

We dug out all the collected glass bottles, driftwood,
seashells, colored stones, and the tangles of gathered fishing ropes,
to prepare our materials for newly repaired outdoor furnishings,
Marmalade's playhouse, our front porch, and bathroom remodeling projects.
And found another nearby trail within Bamboo Parque littered with fallen bamboo,
perfect to complete the outdoor kitchen area and the pergola over our front porch,
which now has three upright posts with three crossbeams.

And, for some time now, I've wanted to make a collection of wind chimes,
and with all the collected random materials, I can finally begin creating them.

And I dug out my oil paints and stash of brushes,
and began repainting a nasturtium painted on a found metal sign in Austria,
as its trailer trip out west last summer left it dirty, scraped, and stained.
Perhaps an apt metaphor for our journey to arrive here;
but I'm ready to move on, move forward,
and so repainting it with our garden's new blossoms.
Once finished, it will become decoration for our fence,
as another friendly welcome to the moonfarm.

And Marmalade and I begun our largest collaborative project yet,
repainting the back wall of our house, which, hopefully,
will soon become the inner wall of Marmalade's own bedroom.
Painting this mural reminds me that I truly love painting on walls;
and that although I am not just a painter, I do love painting.

(& I've wondered how I can share that love here;
& painting our house seems the first logical step.
Yet Marmalade's school, most of Zambujeira do Mar,
& the Casa Viva teahouse in Odemira all seem possibilities
to spread my colors further & to reach a wider audience;
something I imagine would unfold over the next few years.
& speaking of Casa Viva, we'll be there more often,
since Mohamed will be leading a weekly capoeira class there.
So painting their walls seems a very real possibility, too.)

We are also trying to get the place cleaned up a bit,
to feel like we've finally moved in and claimed our home
(& get it ready for a huge visit by Mohamed's family).

And I've been really busy with the bounty from our garden:
jars and jars of blackberry jam, applesauce, and pasta sauce.
With a growing pile of adorable summer and winter squash,
and bush beans, tomatoes, arugula, kale and cauliflower,
and kohlrabis, tomatillos, cucumbers, onions and pears
(which sliced thinly together make a lovely salad!)

And, as our summer harvesting is in full swing;
we are also getting the garden ready for the fall planting season.
We're putting in another few planting beds for an exciting collection of fall favorites: radishes, peas, onions, garlic, broccoli,
rainbow beets and carrots,
and including: fenugreek, red cabbage, celery, shallots, leeks and rutabaga,
that I've never grown before.

We arrived one full year ago,
as our first day in Portugal was Marmalade's third birthday.
This year we have so much to celebrate, so much growth, joy, and surprises.
Marmalade wished for a birthday picnic at the beach,
so we invited the Sebastians to come along,
for lunch and chocolate cupcakes by the sea;
not all that different than a scene from one of her storybooks.

While wandering our land harvesting all the ingredients for the garden salad,
I realized that our home really is out of a storybook:
over a river and through a bamboo forest...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

While our first residents were here in the early summer,
I really saw the potential the moonfarm has as a residency;
not just the location and tranquility and mild weather,
but the abundant found materials and room to experiment.

I've been on enough residencies
(& helped run Townhouse's while there)
to know that I would excel at running a residency,
and hope that the glassbottle construction for the ruin
gives the moonfarm the perfect place to welcome all creatives.

Yet being "off hiatus" hasn't given me any extra free time;
I still spend hours daily watering, cultivating, harvesting, and cooking.
And there's always dirty dishes and laundry piling up.
But the year "on hiatus" has kept me focused on our goals,
and helped me remember that although life is mostly out of our control,
we do have a little time and space to spread happiness
and make our world a little bit brighter.

Thank you for this incredible opportunity.
And please come back to the moonfarm.

With peace and love,
m, M, m (& tuna)




recent comments

friendly fish (& farmers)

Some neighbors and strangers have been incredibly welcoming and generous:

Last week, a few days after our arrival,
a farmer gave us one of his watermelons,
handing it down from his tractor.
Marmalade loves watermelon AND tractors,
so beyond a simple act of kindness
this becomes the most welcoming gesture one could possibly make to her.
And the fresh cool taste made us grateful to be living here.

Last night while at the beach,
a fisherman came over and asked if we were on holiday.
Mohammed said no, that we were looking to buy a farm and live here.
He nodded and handed Mohammed and Marmalade his bag with five fish inside.
Again, an act of welcoming beyond imagine,
as Mohammed had been homesick for saltwater fish.
Gutting, stuffing with spices, frying, and eating became a holy ritual,
returning him to himself, filling some emptiness inside.
You are what you eat, and they became a little more at home,
and this place became more of our home,
by being given them, and by eating them.
We are grateful.

We’re not sure of the species,
yet Mohammed had seen them alongside the rocks
when he went swimming with his mask last week…
now curious to go back and learn more about them,
and the other creatures living in this stretch of the ocean.

friendly fish
friendly fish
frying up the friendly fish
frying up the friendly fish


And yet, my time of welcoming was fast approaching:
one of our (temporary) neighbors, a farmer
with three (not so little) pigs, a field full of vegetables and lots of fruit trees,
invited us over to meet the pigs, and see his farm,
(and his well, which we can use to get buckets of water).
Near the pig enclosure, there were some butternut squash
growing on a vine along the ground.
Marmalade asked what they were, I replied “Kürbis”
as she is familiar with the German name for them,
(& it is one of my nicknames for her as well).
The farmer bent down and picked one, giving it to Marmalade to hold.
(As a vegetarian, this Kürbis is my saltwater fish,
which I typically make into a Caribbean-style squash & bean stew)
bringing a taste of my own liking into our temporary home.
He also dug some sweet onions, and picked peppers and tons of tomatoes,
which I’ve used to make some seawater pasta (recipes perhaps in later blog!)

The greatest gifts are those given openly from the heart,
and given to weary travelers who are trying to make a new life in a foreign land.
Added to the joy that all the produce was biologic/organically grown,
a warm thanks to the pigs for supplying the fertilizer.

Kürbis mit Kürbis (& all the bounty given to us by the farmer)
Kürbis mit Kürbis (& all the bounty given to us by the farmer)


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co-director (s) wrote on Sep 1:

It's so great to see your "hiatus team", Marisa, and thanks for the yummy stories on food and strangers' kindness. Man, don't we need more of that among all other non-constructively negative news worldwide. Looking forward to the recipe (;


frog in the well

frog & dragonflies



I have been playing cat & mouse 

with a frog who is living in the well.

Possibly a leopard frog, or a close cousin,
it loves to lay in the drainage tube
or sun itself on the nearby cement,
lying in quiet wait of some prey.

Every time I approach, it jumps into the well.
I’ve gotten stealthier, and perhaps its gotten more trusting…
either way I’ve been hoping to catch it within a photograph.
Or better yet, a video.

Luckily, this morning, I noticed it was a bit slower to descend.
So around noon, I took my tablet over for another try at capturing it,
and saw that it was distracted by two dragonflies hovering overhead.
I’m not sure I have gained its trust quite yet,
but I’m grateful to be able to share this scene with you,

From the first sploosh during our first arrival,
I’ve been curious to really get to know it, befriend it even,
reminded of a passage in the writings of Chuang Tzu:

“Haven’t you ever heard about the frog in the caved-in well?
He said to the great turtle of the Eastern Sea,
‘What fun I have!
I come out and hop around the railing of the well,
or I go back in and take a rest in the wall where a tile has fallen out.
When I dive into the water,
I let it hold me up under the armpits and support my chin,
and when I slip about in the mud,
I bury my feet in it and let it come up over my ankles.
I look around at the mosquito larvae and the crabs and polliwogs
and I see that none of them can match me.
To have complete command of the water of one whole valley
and to monopolize all the joys of a caved-in well–
this is the best there is!”

(it goes on, with the turtle of the Eastern Sea informing the frog that
the Eastern Sea is a far greater world than the one the frog has mastered.
An ancient version of calling out the frog’s “big fish in a small pond” mentality.
But I include this verse as an act of compassion to this frog,
a tribute to living in this almost abandoned well,
waiting for the rains, waiting for food to fly by;
somewhat nervous about my semi-constant visits.
I wouldn’t want to be the frog, I’m too nomadic, I guess;
but like many of the farmers we’ve met here,
who’ve spent their whole lives mastering their fields and waiting for the rains,
I enjoy their home and am glad that they enjoy living here.)

Leave a Comment (1)

Co-director (m) wrote on Aug 21:

...or Bashō's famous haiku:
(The old pond:
a frog jumps in, –
the sound of the water.)

Reminding us of our existence within a perpetual present.

Thanks Marisa, I'll have to look up more by Chuang Tzu


música das cabras

On our second day here,
about halfway on our way to the beach,
we noticed a “Vende” sign on a smaller farmland
and decided to stop on the return trip;
the field was full of goats, each with a bell chiming around its neck.
An old goatherd was watching them very intimately, calling them by name;
we were totally entranced by their chimes.

2.3 hectares, grazing land split by a dirt road,
with a wall of a ruin set far back on the property,
tucked away near the back in the shade.
Not sure the price, the goatherd did not know,
we will call the number listed but have to wait for phone credit.
It isn’t quite enough land for all three families,
but it is really lovely, and might serve us well.

Once we got credit, we sent a message inquiring of the price.
Tiago responded, but gave us no sense of the price he was expecting.
We made an offer, but haven’t received a response.

Nonetheless, we pass by everyday,
enjoying the música das cabras.

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co-director (m) wrote on Aug 20:



birdies in the hedgehog


We discovered an active swallow’s nest,

which Marmalade says looks like a hedgehog,
stuck on the ceiling in the ruin, our new habitation,
with three baby birdies that occasionally pop their heads out.

The parents nervously fly in and circle,
once crashing into each other in their panic on seeing us;
but occasionally they forget their fear and enter their nest to feed their young.

At first we were a bit concerned that the wouldn’t land with us here,
so we would leave the space when they repeatedly tried to enter;
but I’m happy to report that they have normalized to our presence a bit,
and now spend more time here while we were here.

(Upon arrival, I had said “I miss our garden balcony,”
a magical space inhabited not only by the flowers and fruits planted,
but frequented by a steady stream of pollinators,
and earlier this Spring, a family of blackbirds,
(funnily, one of the young flopped inside
and scuttled down the hallway during flight lessons),
and afterwards, in the same nest, a family of sparrows.
I missed having a place to call home, even temporarily.
But by evening, seeing all the creatures occupying this ruin,
I felt quite at home again.)

I enjoy camping, real unplugged camping,
because the outside world becomes your living room,
and all sorts of creatures come to visit.

The last time we had been camping was July 2014,
in Rote Wald, an old growth forest in Steirmark, Austria.
Upon waking and unzipping the tent in the morning,
we were delighted to see a dozen snails had called our tent home
and camped out with us. A few were even stuck to my sandals.
Also that morning, I had an enchanted moment with a butterfly,
who landed on me and hung out for a while, following along in the forest.

But back to here and now, the parents have been back in the nest
a few more times in the time it’s taken to write this;
so I guess things will be fine for the “birdies in the hedgehog”


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co-director (s) wrote on Aug 19:

I hope your dog wouldn't find them?!


Greetings & Welcome to our Residency for Artists on Hiatus project: moonfarmers!

Currently we are camped out in Rogil, southern Portugal, 

on a chunk of farmland that we intended to buy,
awaiting word from the two German families
who will also be moving here from Austria.

The property description said 5.48 hectares of farmland,
partly forested, 600m from ocean.
However, upon arrival,
we saw that the forested part of the farmland had been logged,
clearcut & burned, for a quick profit for the sellers, I suppose;
the land looks devastated,
leaving scattered charred pinecones and tree stumps,
and bleached and empty snail shells.
But without the woods, I doubt we will buy it, as the trees,
and the shade they’d provide,
were one of the main reasons we selected this property;
that are the proximity to the beach.
So we will continue looking for other farms for sale in the area;
yet we will continue camping out here for the next two weeks,
until one of the families arrives to confer and decide where we will actually live.

Sorry, I suppose an introduction is in order:
my name is marisa dipaola.
I have been living a nomadic existence since leaving R.I.S.D. in 2000.
I have also been living a scattered life;
some places a painter, a sculptor, an installation artist, a fiber artist,
a costume designer, and, while living in Cairo a dozen years ago,
I taught an experimental drawing workshop for relocated Sudanese and Nubian artists.
I have traveled a lot, mostly beginning journeys through Artists Residency programs,
sometimes extending my stay, and while at Al Riwaq, in Bahrain,
meeting my husband,
Mohammed, a scuba diver, comic artist, all around incredible guy;
who shortly after our six week camping roadtrip honeymoon,
decided to go back to school.
So we spent the past three years in Villach, Austria,
while he got his Masters in Biomimetics.
It was lovely there, and our daughter, Marmalade, was born there;
but we both grew up on the sea and missed the salt water.
So we packed up and left,
driving 40 hours southwest to the edge of Europe,
to buy farmland and start a new life.
I had been painting at the Karawanserie,
an alternative community space in Villach,
where we met Astrid and Petra, and their families,
who will be joining us here in Portugal.

Over the next week,
we plan to bike around the nearby neighborhoods,
looking for other places for sale,
hopefully with more trees and with more land.
In the meantime, I will try to get these posts online,
yet technology has been somewhat challenging,
as we have been powering all our devices
(phones, tablet, camera & mini projector)
with 2 small solar panels that we plug into;
however, much of the charge goes towards Marmalade’s daily dose of cartoons,
currently “Masha & Medbedb” which she lovingly calls ” Masha & Mishka.”

the ruin in Rogil cleaning up the ruin in Rogil clearing up the ruin in Rogil

Leave a Comment (4)

Wayne Lim wrote on Sep 5:

Because I only ever had one small road-trip with my family — that's why! I'd love to actually! An ex-classmate of mine runs an (art) residence program in Porto and I didn't go to Porto during my last visit. I'd be tempted to just rent out a room for a month actually. How long is this temporary residence at Rogil going to be for your family?

marisa wrote on Sep 3:

Wayne, I had to laugh reading that you were jealous of families on road trips. (Our long hours cramped in a car may be over, but we are still shitting in a hole in view of the GNR police, so this may be one of those "grass is greener" things)
In any case, if Amsterdam gets to be too much, feel free to come back to Portugal.

Wayne Lim wrote on Sep 2:

I was in Faro a month ago! We could've met up!

co-director (s) wrote on Aug 15:

Welcome aboard Marisa! So exiting to see that your "on-hiatus" project has started -- we hope things will work out, but are sure that our "problem-solving skills" we learn in art-school and beyond will help you find ways to make it work!! (; Wishing you and Marmalade sunny weathers and no disputes over your shares of the solar power!