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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summer love: doggie-style

So let me start by saying I debated writing this post,
because it is a part of life I sometimes try to erase from my mind.
But, it has become a very large part of this week,
and our interactions with animals is a common topic,
so let’s get on with it.

Last weekend Nutella became “in heat” as they say.
Usually this just leads to some annoying behavior
and occasional whimpers, and soon passes.
However, here, camping out without doors or fences,
our private life is very much public,
and this is no exception.

Every male dog in Rogil can smell that Nutella is in heat,
and several available bachelors have been roaming by the ruin
to make their advances and intentions known.
The first night, we had three dogs roaming around our tent,
all night, occasionally scuffling and growling at each other.
(This would have been enough for a sleepless night,
but the irony was that Nutella wasn’t with us…
she had run off with a yellow dog who seemed fairly friendly.)
Very early in the morning, Mohamed went back to the ruin,
correctly assuming that Nut was hiding in her blankets there.

By morning, we exhaustedly trudged back to the ruin,
tossing pinecones at ones that got too close.
(I don’t advocate hitting dogs, or anything for that matter,
but these dogs are big and full of testosterone,
and not necessarily friendly. But fortunately,
they have all been domesticated enough to take the hint,
so a pinecone tossed to bounce off their haunches
has been enough for them to keep their distance.)
We are very fortunate none have attacked us,
or Nutella (at 15 lbs., knee-high and almost 10 years old)
because she doesn’t have the strength to fight them off.

When we got back to the ruin, it looked sort of ransacked,
as one of the big dogs must’ve realized Nut was inside
and tore through the place looking for her.

And as the day wore on,
that one yellow dog in particular seemed to keep her attention,
and he used his size and eagerness to chase off the other dogs seeking attention; soon afterward she went over to him and their love affair bloomed. They were gone for awhile, and returned reenergized.

When we were going to the beach, they tagged along,
sniffing and pawing at each other the whole way there.
And they had quite a romantic day at the beach
(& probably ruined several beach-goers romantic times as well).
Unfortunately, Nutella stumbled into some decaying fish that washed up onto the beach, and got this stinking dark greasy nastiness all over her boyfriend’s yellow coat.
I tried to wash them in the ocean, luckily it was only on Nut’s paws,
but Ya’lla (as I began calling him, Arabic for “come on” or “get going”)
wouldn’t let me wash him, nor would the seawater be enough. He stank.
So when we arrived back home, I told him to go home and threatened him with pinecones until he took off.
I pitied his person, whoever the poor sucker is that had to wash him.

Ya’lla returned that evening, thankfully smelling much better.
And stayed with us all night, sleeping just outside our tent,
growling and chasing off any other dogs that got close.
(Nut was safely inside, passed out from all the day’s events.)
And the next day, he tagged along all day again.
We began wondering why he didn’t have people searching for him,
and although at first we were actively trying to shoo him away
and telling him to go home (in several languages, as I assumed
he had foreign owners, since he didn’t respond to Portuguese.)


Marmalade & Ya'lla
Marmalade & Ya’lla

But he stayed around, even though I refused to feed him,
soon becoming friends with Marmalade as well as Nut’s “boyfriend”.
(Ya’lla is very patient with Marmalade, and this is especially nice
since she is a bit too rough to play with Nut.
Marmalade started calling Ya’lla “Marmalade doggie”
so it seemed like we adopted a stray dog…
But we knew he had people since someone washed the decaying stink off him.

Marmalade with Nutella & Ya'lla
Marmalade with Nutella & Ya’lla

The third full day of having Ya’lla yielded the truth.
As Cornelius’s son Jonathan biked by, he yelled “Alvin?”
Yup, it is Alvin.
Our adopted dog Ya’lla is actually Cornelius’s dog Alvin.
They thought he must’ve gotten hit by a car and were searching ditches for him…
On Jonathan’s return trip, he took Alvin home.

Alvin showed up tent-side again the next morning.
Since then I’ve sorta lost count
of how many times Cornelius took Alvin home, maybe 3 or 4;
of how many trips to the beach he’s tagged along,
of how many nights sleeping outside our tent,
but it’s been a full week now, so probably six or seven,
with little sign of letting up, until we move, that is.
(I’ve also lost count of the attention they’ve attracted,
since many people slow down or stop to watch their doggie behavior.
Even beach-goers stopped their photo-taking and making-out
to watch Nutella try to hump on Alvin.
Their geometry is all askew, yet they keep at it.)

Yesterday morning he ate our breakfast,

that stands out as the low point
(I had a plate of french toast cooling in the ruin while I checked on our plants. When I went back in, the french toast had disappeared. I was pissed.)
This morning he ran alongside while I biked down the road to Esteveira to pot up a small agave plant I want to transplant. That was nice.
Usually he just tagged along with Nut,

but now he’s become more “our” dog,
which is nice, since Nut’s hormones aren’t raging as strong anymore.
And he’s great with Marmalade

(he has Santosa, a 2 year old, at home).

As an aside, since we are on the subject,
I often thought if I ever made a television show,
it would be about animals mating.
Maybe for Animal Planet, a series for their late-night time slot.
I used to watch in awe as my two guinea pigs would begin their courtship dance:
the male (mostly white) and female (dark brownish) would run in tight circles, curved towards each other, resembling a spinning Yin-Yang.
Eventually they would vibrate into each other purring deeply
and I would leave them to their private time.
I once happened upon two large slugs while mushroom hunting,
laying atop a mushroom cap in a similar vibrating Yin-Yang position.
And on the morning of our wedding day, my niece Angelina took photos of two painted turtles we saw stacked askew in our backyard.
Later that evening, a wedding guest informed us that yes, they were mating.
But my point is that unless you are one to take notice, many don’t realize that animals and humans both have “animal” instincts and “human” natures.
That a romantic day at the beach is a romantic day at the beach,
though the four-paws seem less inhibited about their gawking onlookers.

As a second aside, this whole week of Nut in heat
has been eye-opening for Mohamed as well.
At first he was blaming Nut for attracting all these stray dogs to our place, because they would follow her scent as she was peeing everywhere.
But soon, after watching the male dogs act like male dogs,
he realized that her scent, not her behavior,
has beckoned all these dogs to come calling.
He’s learned to empathize with Nut, (and women in general)
with the harassment and uninvited advances they must endure,
saying “that men don’t understand what being a woman entails.”

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