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

uncovering the future

The big well drilling machine arrived the other day.
It is huge. And next to it, an even larger generator to run it.

well digging image

Since we moved in,
we’ve been doing things very minimally,
mostly by hand, using machinery as little as possible.
And now that this monstrous thing has showed up,
I feel intimidated by the sheer size and scale of it;
and I guess the noise will be more than the sight of it.
Much more…

However, we trust the man we hired,
and hope that he is able to find Aqua Nascente:
Spring water, drinkable water, on the hillside right above our house.
He seems fairly sure that he will be successful,
and once the artesian well is dug,
our water worries will be over.

(The previous system had an unpredictable flow,
required almost weekly maintenance,
and was agricultural irrigation water from the Mira river,
which flowed from Santa Clara lake in the mountains.
Although unpolluted, it was surface flowing and not pure.
And it ran through many farms, some that are larger, agrochemical farms.)

Also, we will be able to use the artesian well
for both our house and the guesthouse in the rebuilt ruin,
as well as having faucets for the outdoor kitchen,
and perhaps an outdoor shower stall.

As an update for rebuilding the ruin,
we met with eco-architects today
to discuss our construction possibilities.
They specialize in low-impact design,
utilizing native materials, including taipa and adobe.
I’m hoping we can reuse and reinforce the existing walls,
as I really like their antiquated, from-the-earth, aesthetic.

ruin image

And they seem think it is possible.
They design and build with their own-made materials:

eco-blocks image
including earthen bricks and tile, as well as reclaimed roof tiles,
and custom windows and doors from reclaimed wood.
Their office is a testing ground for various materials and techniques,
so it was a really fun and informative visit.

local reed & wood ceiling, jp bernardino construçôes ecológicas, Cercal, Portugal
local reed & wood ceiling,
jp bernardino construçôes ecológicas, Cercal, Portugal
jp bernadino construçôes ecológicas, the eco-bathroom in their office, Cercal, Portugal
jp bernadino construçôes ecológicas,
the eco-bathroom in their office, Cercal, Portugal
their own earthen brick kitchen, jp bernardino construçôes ecológicas, Cercal, Portugal
their own earthen brick kitchen,
jp bernardino construçôes ecológicas, Cercal, Portugal

One of the architect, João, agreed to come for a site-visit next week.
At that point, we’ll have a better idea of what of the ruin we can reuse.

another ruin image

In order to get clearer photos for the architects,
I spent hours cutting away blackberry bushes from the exterior walls.
On the second day, I uncovered a small stone and brick structure.
Yesterday I cut away to reveal an old outdoor bread oven,
with a cool domed brick interior.

bread oven image

Although it was covered in blackberries,
the side and back vents still seem clear,
but the front will need some rebuilding.
I was planning on building a traditional outdoor bread oven,
as they are great for my homemade pizzas and flatbread,
and keep the house cool during the long summer months.

interior of the bread oven
interior of the bread oven

And it is in a great location.
since it is only a few meters from the ruin,
where we hope to put a grape arbored terrace.
The architects have designed and built several terraces and arbors,
including some using antique timbers.
I’ve got to clear away more of the blackberries this weekend,
so that proper measurements can be taken next week.

On our return from the architects,
our hearts were broken…

To begin with, the sound and vibration are awful.
And we feel guilty for the disturbance to all our animal neighbors,
especially the moles that have tunnels near the digging site.

To move the well-digging machinery into place,
the laborers drove the trucks through our front yard,
tearing up huge patches of our land.

drilling image

And after a certain point in the drilling,
the drill began sputtering out a grey slick spray,
which began running down the property,
like a polluted stream through our little Shangri-La.
It seems to be a thick layer on the surface, like foamy oil slick,
but had begun to pool and puddle halfway down the front yard.

oil slick image

After the men left, Mohamed cut a trench to divert the flow,
and after nightfall, it began to rain,
so we are anxious and unsure about
the state of our yard come morning.

We spent part of the afternoon in shock,
wondering if this well was the right thing to do,
because we never intended to pollute our yard,
and fear it will take more than the mushrooms we brought
to heal the damage that this machinery is causing.

Luckily, the architects are low-impact and environmentally-sensitive,
which has been the silvery lining in what would otherwise have been a nightmare.

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