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

baby steps: part two

So the first two weeks of school has been exhausting…
Marmalade hasn’t been excited to go,
and each morning has been a struggle to get her ready and into the car.
By pick up time, she seems like she had okay days,
playing independently and with the other children,
and participating in most of the class projects.
This Friday her class had some sort of performance,
and Marmalade was supposed be the sun, so we were excited,
hoping that she’d somehow integrate into the group.
But as soon as she saw me, she clinged on and wouldn’t participate.
She did watch the other children perform, and enjoyed their holiday party afterwards.

 sunshine image

It was really unreal to be there, as parents among other kindergarten parents,
but unalike in every which way. But they are very friendly.
We will keep trying to get Marmalade adjusted to school.

Over the past weekend, we saw fruit trees for sale while out getting groceries.
Since it was a Fruit time, we bought a pomegranate tree, an apricot tree,
another peach tree, and our first raspberry bush.
Unfortunately, it was down-pouring all weekend;
so the holes were easy to dig but filled up fast,
so it was like trying to plant the trees into soup.
We got them in, pruned them a little,
and once the rain finally stopped, the ground firmed up.
They seem okay, and the raspberry now has green buds emerging.

On Monday I spent hours in the garden,
clearing the very bottom garden box,
and planting the cloves from two heads of garlic,
and carrots and radish seeds (as it was a Root time).
Some of the onions emerged during the Root time,
and more have followed their lead, so we will have plenty.
I weeded around the first radishes I had planted,

radishes image
accidentally harvesting two; they were delicious.

radish image

I have been harvesting a lot of arugula,
almost daily for sandwiches and into whatever we have for dinner.
And the oyster mushrooms we brought have been continuing to fruit,
so they’ve been added to pasta sauce (with sun-dried tomatoes and capers)
and into a tomato barley soup I made over the weekend.

oyster mushroom image

Otherwise, our cork siding has been delivered.
It is 5 cm thick, so more than our hand drill can manage.
Luckily, a battery-recharging power drill goes on sale this Saturday at a nearby store,
so hopefully that will help us along.

siding image

In the meantime, I began putting silicone sealant
along all the window frames and other edges to keep the moisture out.
We need to fill in the few bits of foam that are missing from the exterior insulation.
And recently we heard a gnawing noise in the other wall of the bathroom.
Inspecting outside, I saw two small holes bored in the siding;
so that will be another project.

Yesterday morning while Marmalade was in school,
I went into the nearby forest and sawed a downed eucalyptus tree into firewood.
Our neighbors warned that January and February can get quite cold here,
so aside from all the housework and garden work,
we are collecting, cutting, and stockpiling firewood.
We’ve only been having fires sporadically so far,
mostly to dry the house out (and the laundry),
since it really hasn’t been very cold yet.

And we’ve met with a well digger last week,
as we want to put an artesian well on the hill above the house.
He seems to be an intuitive, and through his dowsing,
was able to find two intersecting water lines
only a few feet from where we wanted the well dug.
He is now applying for the permits and should begin in a few weeks.
He’s a very cool guy; I hope to video his dowsing during his next visit.

Otherwise, we are just trying to keep on keeping on.
Mohamed unclogged the water system again this morning.
And spent the afternoon testing all the batteries of our solar system,
and after testing, decided to remove four of the oldest batteries,
that were probably draining the system more than helping us out.
Since it was a Leaf day, I spent the morning weeding out the arugula and kale patches.
And everyday I try to clear our more of the overgrowth,
somedays the waist-high grasses along the paths,
somedays, when I’m feeling brave, or ready for the blood loss,
I tackle some more of the blackberry bushes.

Tomorrow afternoon we switch over to Fruit time,
so Marmalade wants to help me plant some more peas.
I love getting her into the garden!

Leave a Comment (1)

co-director (m) wrote on Dec 9:

We've been wondering how Marmalade was getting by at school. I remember teaching children her age in Japan and how the first weeks were always a challenge for the foreign students but also how amazingly fast children pick up languages and integrate. Please tell her we're cheering for her.

Here in Montreal our deep freeze has begun.