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)




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the Valley of Bamboo & the wooden house in need of repair… Part Two

So this week has been eventful,
and full of opportunities to learn, grow, and develop…
Mostly, we have come to the realization that we cannot do this on our own.
Basically, that our life will not be built by ourselves alone;
yet working cooperatively we might not only survive but collectively thrive.

(Just to get back online, we have had to rely on the kindness of our neighbors.
Yesterday during our trip north to Porto Covo, we lost our two mini solar panels,
so without electricity from neighboring houses, we cannot make phone calls,
take photos, or search for housing & job opportunities here)

Yesterday a lot of the previous post had reached its fruition:
(the Valley of the Wind & the perfect seaside house at a dead end… Part One)

We drove northward into the Alentajo to meet a diver about aquaculture
and see the adorable wooden house in São Teotónio.
This dive master is a seaweed specialist and also a knowledgable farmer.
He runs Eco Alga, a recreational dive center,
although he has been looking for funding to begin a serious aquaculture project.

My husband Mohammed is a diver and had been studying biodynamic farming practices as part of his Biomimetics Masters program. His thesis was on shell formation.
Their meeting was an informal talk on the possibilities of aquaculture,
as Mohammed wants to use his diving work to help the sea and humanity,
and restoring the marine ecosystems while growing food seems a win-win.
We are hoping that somehow a partnership may develop, funding may materialize,
and the ocean may help grow our future.
On a side note, the coast here is nearly pristine,
the clearest water I have ever seen in an ocean,
because of the momentum of the Gulf Stream is north of here,
the warmer waters (& all the pollution & plastics they carry) aren’t here.
So as far as growing uncontaminated shellfish, these cool waters are ideal.

While in Porto Covo, we visited their incredible beach.
(Unfortunately it was a cloudy day the day,
so we had no charge to take a photo of the pristine coastal coves.)

On the way back, we stopped in São Teotónio and met with a Dutch realtor
to see the adorable wooden cottage on 1.17 hectares of hillside.
Unfortunately the house was never entirely finished inside or out,
as the husband of German couple who were building it fell ill,
and has been left abandoned for over a year now.
The part of the roof that needs work shows promise that we could finish it as a green roof,
growing a local flowering succulent that thrives in full sun and minimal, sandy soil.
The bathroom will need a lot of work (the fixtures are all there, not sure of the connections)
because insects have moved into the ceiling insulation, requiring some repair.
The exterior walls beckon for paint and in some cases, siding,
which we could possibly experiment with recycled metals to create a reflective surface,
capable of both blocking the rain and winter winds,
and creating a microclimate to grow some tropical trees.
Yet overall, the house is ready to move into, with solar panels and their storage batteries,
a furnished kitchen, bedroom and living room, with a wood stove.
The property needs some borrowed goats to mow the year’s overgrowth,
yet with its small pond, nearby stream, and canal water,
ideal for a large sustainable garden, berry patch and fruit orchard.
And, the surrounding location was incredible, with cork oak and eucalyptus trees uphill,
as the property is tucked into a hillside surrounded by a stream and bamboo forest.

(However, tucked away in a valley accessed by swerving, narrow local roads,
it doesn’t seem very bike-friendly. And our car needs repair,
and at this point, not very sure we will be able to keep it in Portugal
due to outdated laws about importing autos across Europe.)

And the selling price claims our whole budget,
and the repairs might require 10,000-20,000€,
depending on how much we can fix ourselves.
It reminded me of my grandparent’s house,
a magical cottage my grandfather built himself.
On the drive home I began crying,
thinking that if my grandfather were alive (& about 40 years younger)
he could transform this place into a dream home.
(And then last night I had a dream take place in his home, reinforcing the connection.)

I wonder what will develop,
and will continue searching for alternatives,
but a part of me hopes to live there.

Today Astrid and her family stopped by before their return trip to Austria.
They met with architects at the municipal office to verify building codes
for moving and installing their yurts and containers, and were denied.
So after all their searching and meetings, they are no closer to moving here.
We were told to try further south, where there is less demand for property,
and hopefully leas restrictions. And further north, for similar reasons.

So the quest continues. The clock ticks.
And the ocean beckons…
the sea our one stress-relief during these trying times.

possible new home in São Teotónio
possible new home in São Teotónio


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the Valley of the Wind & the perfect seaside house at a dead end… Part One

(please note this was supposed to be posted on Monday, August 29th)

After three weeks of squatting on the property we were going to buy,
perhaps it is time for an update:

Astrid and her family arrived a week ago,
and have been thoroughly searching
every and any available property that fits their needs,
(and found that many don’t, won’t, and can’t)
and have found two or three that might.
Our favorite so far: the Valley of the Wind.
4 hectares of property with several small ponds,
a small house set into a hillside, (with municipal power & water),
surrounded by cork oaks, rose and blackberry bushes,
with a small garden aside a hay field, that tumbles down into a valley.
Across the road that divides the property evenly,
a wooded hillside, mostly pines, mostly shaded.
5 kilometers from Aljezur (schools, shops, etc.)
and about 9 or 10 kilometers from the beaches
(not ideal, but bike-able, if you make a day of it).
The sound of the wind whooshing through the valley was enchanting,
the best feature, in my opinion.

Otherwise, they are considering a property in Aljezur,
not sure the size, or other details quite yet,
that would be run more as a guest house or cafe,
that would be walkable to all amenities offered in Aljezur,
and half the distance to the beach.

I suppose there is still the smallest chance they will decide to live here,
5.48 hectares, 600 meters from the beach,
and a short bike ride from three more beaches
and a quaint little town…
honestly, the best “campsite” we’ve ever stayed at.
We like it here, and would love to make it our home.
But the decision is not ours,
since we cannot afford this property
(and all the needed renovations) by ourselves.

Who knows if they will make a decision
during their three week camping trip to the area,
or where they might choose to live. Or when.
Otherwise Petra and her boyfriend, the other family
moving from Villach, Austria to here, will be arriving in October,
and so they might be the ones to pick a property when they arrive.

So where does that leave us?

Well, we have been searching for properties as well,
since our reality is that we need a home, here,
before the stormy season hits and before our visas run out,
so within the next month.

A friend here, Cornelius, showed us a place he had wanted to buy:
about 10 hectares, nestled into the National Park land,
with ocean views, a short hike (less than 500 meters) along trails to the beach,
with a beautiful large house, ready to move into (municipal power & water)
and an outdoor bread oven and a few fig trees.
Stunning. Perfect even. On a dead end.
Literally, the property is at the end of a pebble road.
And unfortunately, metaphorically,
in that the property isn’t technically for sale.
Although uninhabited for over five years,
two brothers own the property and disagree about selling it.
Rumors from neighbors indicate that soon it may come up for sale,
and possibly a reasonable price (around 200,000€),
but so far these are just rumors, and without Astrid and Petra involved,
even this rumored price is three times our personal budget.
But the house is ideal, and we have been visiting it often.
And so far haven’t found any similar for sale,
except one on about half the land, but with a house in upper class condition,
500 meters from Samoquiera, a nearby beach, for 295,000€.
Maybe someone’s dream home, or retirement home,
but not our style and even more out of our price range.

We have been in contact with the owner of the Ziegen property,
(see the post: música das cabras) but haven’t yet determined the price.
We love the community here, we love the beach and the ocean views,
and at 2.3 hectares, recently fertilized by the goats, perfect for our farming needs.
Since the ruin would need to be entirely rebuilt, a well dug,
and other improvements needed, the property could only be about half our budget.
So maybe Tiago, the owner, will come through with a fair offer.
And then we would really get to work rebuilding before wintertime.

And finally, there is a small wooden house
I had found on the internet before we left Austria.
It is in a village a bit north of here, in São Teotónio,
out of the Algarve and into the next district actually, Beja.
It is a small 1.17 hectare property near a steam, 69,000€,
with a huge garden, lots of trees, and an adorable little house,
with a wood stove, and appears to be ready to move in to.
We plan to visit it this week to see the property and investigate the neighborhood.
It is 9 kilometers to the beach, and 8 km from Odemira,
a larger town with a train station, connecting us back to the world.

And after reading through all I have just written,
it appears to be our best chance, given our present situation.
By no means our favorite choice,
but a compromise we can live with,
if all goes well.

In all honesty, I had found a perfect farm property months ago,
that would have suited all our needs, for an incredibly low price: 65,000€
5.3 hectares, along a river, with a solar-powered house with an adorable covered patio.
It was in Odemira, so even further from the beach, but connected to more of Portugal.
In the time taken by others to come to agreement with this property, it had sold.
I was heartbroken, but over time felt that there were other places to search out,
and whoever bought that place wouldn’t be in the market for buying our new home,
wherever it would be.

We are still searching, but hope to be settled somewhere soon.

Although a bit disheveled, our temporary residence in Rogil has been complimented for its "art installation" & several passers-by have taken photos.
Although a bit disheveled, our temporary residence in Rogil has been complimented for its “art installation” & several passers-by have taken photos.

the "gallery" Rogil, week 3

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