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

moonfarmers has landed!

We now own a slice of land in the valley of bamboo:
Barranco da Alcaria
which means “Ravine of the Village”
and we are in the narrow valley between two streams
at the Eastern edge of the village of Malavado.

moonfarmers has landed!
moonfarmers has landed!

After a small day-long delay,
due to a problem with the sellers’ paperwork,
we closed on the property and became home-owners.
The previous owners came by later that afternoon
to fill us in on the workings of their solar and water system.
We also learned that our almost self-sufficient house
will also be on its’ way to being financially sustainable,
with only 21€ in annual property taxes.
(If it wasn’t for the thousands ahead
for needed repairs and wanted renovations,
and the purchasing of fruiting trees and livestock.)

So cleaning and moving in has begun:
eagerly, excitedly, and exhaustingly.

After two days of rain,
Mohamed installed our solar panels,
I cleared out some garden boxes,
and Marmalade has moved most of her toys
all over the living room sofas and floor.

Mohamed & Marmalade wiring up the solar panels
Mohamed & Marmalade wiring up the solar panels

The next day we assessed the water system:
which begins with 360 meters of hose
running from a leaky connection in the agricultural canal,
down through the woods, crossing over a stream on our property,
and uphill to a 300 gallon storage tank, now over-growing with algae,
that has an outlet running through another hose, to another tank,
and then through a filter and into the house.

So besides smelling like a slightly rotten swamp,
the water system works as long as nothing floats in to block the hose.
And with over a year unused, algae has grown in the hose,
probably trapping all sorts of things with it.
Mohamed has spent two mornings trying to clean out the connection,
which might get the water flowing again, at least to some level.
But we are trying to figure out our best alternative:
We might be able to find a new connection to the canal,
an actual legal connection, using an actual pipe, to bring the water in;
Or tap into the stream that is much nearer the house;
Or dig an actual well somewhere near the house.
Since our house is located on a hill between two streams,
finding underground freshwater shouldn’t be a problem.
(Unsure of the expense, but the reliability would be nice.)

underneath the overgrowth, there were three large garden boxes,  which I've been weeding & seeding
underneath the overgrowth, there were three large garden boxes,
which I’ve been weeding & seeding

Meanwhile, I’ve been working in the garden,
clearing the second overgrown garden box,
and sowing arugula and kale seeds during Leaf time.
Inside, it’s been mostly cleaning and unpacking,
and cleaning what I’ve been unpacking
(as two & a half months camping has collected,
among other things, lots of crickets and spiders).

moving in & unpacking inside the moonfarmers' cabin
moving in & unpacking inside the moonfarmers’ cabin

Our solar system is working fairly well,
everything but the fridge is working
(so we are using our electric cooler instead)
which isn’t so bad for just a few days of sun after a year of darkness,
especially considering how old and small the system is;
and we really appreciate being off-the-grid.
Low impact living.

Today we loaded the last of our belongings
into the trailer from the farmer’s field in Rogil.
It feels good to have our stuff consolidated,
though the unpacking and sorting will probably take weeks.

Tomorrow we will try to navigate the government system,
hoping to acquire a real postal address (post office box)
and information about preschools and health insurance,
and possibly switching our car’s registration from Austria to Portugal
(although we’ve ben told that it could be a very expensive procedure,
costing thousands more than the car is worth,
in which case we’d try to sell our car for parts,
and trade in for something old and affordable.
It’d be a shame, as we really love this car and it runs fine,
having to scrap it because of import taxes
seems so environmentally irresponsible.)

spider image

p.s. so we’ve met one of our eight-legged neighbors:

Marmalade found it on a huge web in the grass,
it’s about as large as her hand, always facing downwards.
We stop and visit when we are in that part of the yard.

Leave a Comment (3)

marisa wrote on Oct 25:

yes, the furniture (& a whole lot of furnishings, towels, tools & random stuff) came with the house! the previous owners used this place as their holiday get-away, so they didn't move much out. we are still trying to unpack & sort through things, as all the cabinets & bookshelves were full when we got here.

thanks for the enthusiasm!
we are very excited to be home...
& to have a home to be home at!

co-director (m) wrote on Oct 18:

Congrats Moonfarmers!

co-director (s) wrote on Oct 18:

Yay! Congratulations!! Did the furniture come with the house? Looking great and looking forward to more stories!