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

meeting our neighbors: part two

So, I realized that in the last post
I neglected to mention some of the neighbors we’ve discovered:
we found two different snakes on our property
(one very large mostly greenish one that was sunning itself in our front yard
and a thinner green & black one that was snoozing in our storage shelf,
that we originally thought was a length of hose, until it moved!)
and two smallish lizards that were hanging out in our bathroom,
(one jumped down & hid in the sink’s drain when we went to photograph them,
we’re not sure when or how they got back outside,
but we think we saw one of them a few days later),


and most excitingly, a tree frog! Super cute, sorry no photos.
(I had made a quilt square in elementary school of a tree frog for an endangered animal project & was amazed to see that this frog looked exactly the same as the one I made.)


The pears are starting to feel like neighbors too.
Each morning, when taking Nutella out,
we stop by under the pear tree to see who is ripe and ready for breakfast.
Nutella really likes pears, so she excitedly paws at my ankles the whole walk back.
She also fancies the persimmons,
as do I. These taste like mangoes,
much better than others I’ve tried before.


And I’ve found more Parasol mushrooms growing on our hillside,
and another giant bolete growing near one of our cork oak trees
(I thought it was a large rock until I touched it & it was soft & leathery smooth,
so I looked under its cap to verify that yes, it’s another edible bolete.

Oh, we met more of our human neighbors as well.
Randomly, while at the supermarket,
an elderly couple came up to us and asked if they were our neighbors.
Indeed, we verified that they live in the next house up the hill from us.
A retired British woman and her Dutch husband,
who used to run an International School in Lisbon.
Very friendly, they even said they will bring down children books
for Marmalade that their grandchildren have outgrown.

We live on a winding dirt road,
that leaves our tiny town, goes past a sheep farm and then heads downhill,
the road zigs to the left and then to the right and flattens out at our driveway,
then crosses the stream through the bamboo and climbs a steep, steep hill
out of the valley and through more bamboo.
So we don’t get a lot of traffic,
and began waving to everyone that drives by
as soon as we started camping here.
Most people have been waving back,
and some actually slow down to wave at Marmalade,
and catch our attention if inside to come to the doorway to wave.
So our neighbors must’ve recognized us from us waving at them,
though I can’t remember when we might’ve seen them.

I’m sure as we get the yard more habitable,
and put up more sculptures and paintings,
more people will actually stop by.

But for now,
we are waist-deep in yard work
and up to our elbows in house repairs,
so waving has been a fun way to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood.

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day of despair

Last night I received this email from a dear friend and fellow American artist:

“we’re all in deep mourning, horror, dismay, over the election results.
It feels like we’re about to return to the Dark Ages,
and I should start making ceramic tablets,
imprinted with whatever knowledge we have,
and burying them for future generations.
didn’t realize the apocalypse was scheduled so soon…..
how are you doing with this?”

I thought I’d share excerpts from my reply,
because I suppose these things must be said,
and I’ve included so much of our eventful week:

Do not despair.
Because you have a lovely grandchild on the way!
Luckily they are tucked away in a liberal haven in the Pacific Northwest.
Have you finished the new quilt?

But, I really do like the ceramic tablet idea.
Put your frustration into your work.
Your work is very powerful.
History not learned repeats itself.
And here we are.

(You didn’t know me back then,
but when we invaded Iraq, in 2004,
I looked for residencies in the Mid-East,
settling on the Townhouse Gallery, in Cairo, Egypt,
because I admired the artists there,
and really liked the work they were creating.
I had to get away from the hate,
and at that time, I was in Boston,
and Boston was full of hate. Proud of their hate.
I spent that 9/11 in Nuweiba, on the Red Sea,
on the beach with Egyptians and Israelis.
That was our protest of the ongoing wars.
And the ongoing hate.)

You asked how we are coping…

We are just fine.
Grateful to be here,
tucked away in a bamboo valley,
in the middle of nowhere, really,
across the sea from all the commotion.

We started our day by singing the Abc song,
over and over again, while still laying in bed,
using your quilt to point out the letters to Marm.
(It’s really funny how she sings along,
confusing H for 8, & I for 9,
so it becomes A, B, C, D, E, F, G, 8, 9, J, K, LmnoP…

abc image

Marmalade made a friend yesterday,
Actually we all made friends yesterday.
During the day of despair,
we went to a nearby seaside town to buy a used car,
that just happened to be owned by
the only Moroccans in this part of Portugal.
They are really nice, really friendly people,
who even had us over for lunch.
And they have a son, Said,
who is only 4 months older than Marmalade,
and attends the local kindergarten,
which Marmalade will attend someday.

Marmalade and Said get along really well.
We all get along really well.
Malika works for the local Driscoll’s berry farm,
as a Portuguese-English translator for the Nepalese laborers.
Her husband Ali is a fisherman, and works at the fishmarket.
Malika gave me a bunch of persimmons and boxes of frozen berries.
So I made a small batch of jam today, jarred up half,
and saved the rest for a cheesecake topping.
Because I’ve been craving cheesecake for awhile now,
and the berries have me feeling inspired.
So this weekend when Malika, Ali & Said come over
to see our new house, we will share cheesecake.
Because love trumps hate.

Otherwise, we’ve been homebodies when we can,
fixing up our fixer-upper. It needs a lot of work!
Mohamed has been trying to streamline the water system.
I’ve been putting up the tiles on the wall behind our wood stove.
And hanging up some paintings, so it feels more like home.
And gardening. And foraging!
Tonight I made pasta with a pesto sauce,
using arugula picked today from our garden
and a parasol mushroom plucked from near the stream.

Honestly, I sorta saw this coming…
I was ready for a Bernie revolution,
but I knew the country was more willing for the Dark Ages.

I always had friends of every shape and color,
and saw that they were treated like they lived in a different world.
I didn’t want Mohamed to experience any of that while he was there,
so I was very protective of him, sheltering even.
I didn’t want Marmalade to grow up in that kind of environment, either.
Sure, she can pass as a “real American”
but we were trying to find a more welcoming, accepting world to call home.
The Portuguese are lovely, laid-back, down to Earth people.
We are happy to have them as neighbors.
We hope to have more as friends.

If the feces hits the fan and there’s too much splatter,
you can always come here to avoid the debris.
Our goal is to renovate our ruin to be a guesthouse,
for family, friends, and as an artist’s retreat,
so please feel very welcome to come as all three!

We choose this place for its potential as a refuge,
from whatever political, environmental, or natural disaster the world suffers.
Originally, I though Mohamed’s family might need the retreat,
from their small, entirely sea level island in the Persian Gulf,
that always seems on the brink of getting swallowed up by Saudi agression.
My father mentioned, back in May, that if Trump got elected,
he’d be joining us in Portugal, as the laws for retiring here are quite welcoming.
I thought, great, Marmalade would love having the company.
But he was making a joke, I think.
I don’t think my parents thought this could happen.
I guess there is a lot of shock going around.
Mohamed just told me that there were protests!

Good luck,
and keep your head above whatever is getting thrown around.
We shall overcome.
We love you.

Leave a Comment (4)

co-director (S) wrote on Nov 11:

I still think that "artists live an "underprivileged" life" is mostly a G8 concept when many other cultures do not even have "living as an artist" (practically or conceptually) as an option or idea. Art is a privilege in this sense when you were born in a situation, (I'm not just talking about means) where there was a notion of creativity as a choice for your identity and/or things to do. And one is super lucky to have a fate/chance/will to learn or nurture the "mental privilege/freedom". I think lots of past/current RFAOH residents touch related issues from completely different angles. We love it.

marisa wrote on Nov 11:

I like the "mental privilege" concept,
because the concept of "privileged life" doesn't mesh with the sacrifices and scraping by that most artists live.

Perhaps "mental freedom" would be more appropriate.
I must admit we were somewhat apprehensive about packing up all our belongings and heading into the great unknown this summer. But in Austria we had befriended some Syrian refugees and listening to their harrowing tales gave us courage.
Mental freedom is earned, it is gained through sacrifice, not something inherited through privilege.
Freedom is being able to sunbathe,
to take your dogs for a walk,
and hopefully find your way home.

co-director (s) wrote on Nov 11:

On 11/9 & 11/10, we shared Wayne's and your reports on our page saying "it's oddly fitting that Wayne's pondering "home" "circuit", and "belonging"" / "for now, let's talk about mushrooms and lovely creatures to get our perspectives on life back on track and straight".
When we happened to be in Manhattan on 9/11, we videotaped people sunbathing and taking dogs for a walk at the Central park.
We in the arts may live in the privilege and hypocritical liberalism that many are fed up with, but I want to believe that it is the "mental privilege" we learn to live in as a creative facet.

co-director (m) wrote on Nov 11:

Nice thoughts Marisa. I think everyone here was a bit dismayed but perhaps not surprised.

Leonard Cohen just died as well. He has a house here in Montreal a few km from us, but right off the main strip; Ive never seen him but friends I know have sometimes bumped into him at the local depanneur or his favourite sandwich place. Anyway, one of my favourite quotes by him is this:

"First thing: to discover if I am in a state of grace, that is, the balance with which you ride the chaos around you."