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

fall foraging fun

Well, okay,
the first thing we’ve been collecting are pears,
gathering the ones fallen from a giant old tree growing amidst bamboo,
right at the edge of our property.
We’ve collected dozens.

So perhaps these pears don’t really qualify as foraging,
as they aren’t really a wild edible,
but they are crisp, almost-ripe,
and during the wind gusts,
falling aplenty.


As for actual foraging,
last week’s scattered rains brought an unexpected treat:
chicken of the woods, one of our favorite fall mushrooms.
These golden shelf mushrooms have a mild flavor and sturdy texture,
like cooked chicken breast meat, hence their name.

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)
Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)

These are growing here on eucalyptus stumps,
(cultivated in huge tracks for the paper industry)
which we also have on our property by the dozens.
(While I’m on the topic of the eucalyptus,
I pruned some young sucker-branches off a few of our trees
during a Leaf time to coil together to form a wreath for our doorway.
It’s scent is used in aromatherapy for calming and stress-relief.)

wreath image

Our eucalyptus haven’t yet shown signs of having these mushrooms,
so we tore up one of the bug-damaged sections of the shelf
and scattered it amidst our eucalyptus patch,
near the cut stumps from the previous harvest.
(Eucalyptus can be re-harvested three times from the initial planting,
as the cut stump from the first-growth will reshoot new trees,
again, and again, for 30 years of growth from one stump
providing three times the lumber, or firewood, as a normal tree.
Part of the reason for their popularity here,
also, they are drought-resistant, and being non-native,
have no natural parasites or other infectious diseases.)

For our dinner, I made a chickpea-chicken of the woods stew,
several shelves of the mushroom and an equal amount of chickpeas
cooked up with a sweet onion, a red bell pepper,
half a batata doce (local sweet yam), some tomato puree,
lots of spices (a bit heavy on cumin), and a splash of seawater;
served over basmati rice.

Blackberries, known locally as “amoras,”
have been another staple from our walks,
available for the past two months on wayward roadsides,
and now on the neighbor’s side of our driveway.
Those bushes, naturally, that grew near streams
yielded the tastiest, juiciest berries;
however the last of the crop benefitted from the autumn rains,
so all the remaining berries are quite enjoyable.
We also found a few wild grape vines growing at the edge of our ruin,
entirely rooted on the neighbor’s side (which they don’t use at all).
Marmalade found and ate all of the grapes that were there;
yet I hope to transplant some of the vines in the springtime,
to compliment the patio of the outdoor kitchen area.

Finally, though I really can’t count this as “foraging” since inedible,
we found an incredible stash of multicolored slate (or shale?) this afternoon.
As we were hiking up to the source of our house’s water,
I saw what I thought were broken tiles with intricate hand-painted patterns.
We were truly amazed to realize that they were slivers of rock,
unlike any rocks we have seen before on any of our explorations.

rocks image

Perhaps the chunks of rock separated slightly at first,
allowing sediments to seep in, creating incredible patterns,
as the surrounding clayish earth seemed to carry some of the palette;
or the rocks were formed with these incredible patterns inside,
and the surrounding earth is simply colored from crushed rock.

detail image

detail image

detail image

detail image

Either way, these rocks are awe-inspiring,
and I collected three armfuls of them,
hoping that they could be somehow used for something.
(part of a patio, or sidewalk, or siding near the foundation,
or outdoor kitchen, or to help finish the bathroom, etc.)

Fortunately, the larger rocks easily break into nearly identical slivers,
and each sliver is smooth and flat, with incredible patterns.
Unfortunately, the rocks break easily, are incredibly fragile,
and I’m not entirely sure that the colors and patterns are set into the surface,
so a heavy rain may alter or wipe clean the incredibleness.
Maybe they can be reinforced, coated, or varnished,
or otherwise strengthened through an adhesive or cement.

Leave a Comment (3)

marisa wrote on Oct 28:

Thank you, and yes, it is an adventure!

Funny to suggest that I wouldn't be able to return to making meaningful art...
From my experience,
I have found that some residencies are all about output (what you can produce while there), while others (&especially this one!) are about input (what inspirations, experiences and substances you can absorb so that when you do return to studio work, your work is enriched from all that has been gathered and collected).
But yes, I find my interests right now leaning towards interior design, architecture, and landscape architecture.
Though tomorrow is another day...

Lee wrote on Oct 28:

This looks amazing, so much work but also such an adventure. I'm catching up on posts and I'm glad this has worked out after your "when it rains it pours" experience!

co-director (s) wrote on Oct 26:

Reading all this, I somehow feel it could be difficult to go back to "making art" meaningfully. It (everything, not "things") is all so luscious and takes up so much time and space in your brain if I were dealing with this...