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.
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.
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.
making soup on Root days (& other Root-related things)
Root days always inspire me to make soup,
and today was no exception.
In the afternoon, I sautéed a chopped onion in canola oil,
added a diced potato, and four large carrots, and a touch of butter.
Then I put in some coriander and celery seed, and a handful of red lentils;
then a few cups of carrot juice and a splash of seawater.
I brought it to a boil, and then simmered until the veggies softened.
And then, because we had such a warm and sunny day, we had enough power that
I was able to use my blender wand to “fphoot fphoot” it into a purée.
This carrot soup is the second soup I made in this past week.
Last week, I made another root vegetable soup.
I started early, right after Marmalade went to school,
sautéing an onion in rosemary-infused olive oil,
then adding 2 sliced carrots, a cubed potato,
those oyster mushrooms from the firewood,
radish greens, kidney beans, and a bunch of barley.
I used ground celery seed and white pepper for seasoning,
as well as a few cups of carrot juice and leftover applesauce for the broth.
After the soup was simmering, I went outside to do some yard work.
I started by cutting more grasses to put down on the driveway,
hoping by the time all the overgrowth is trimmed
we will be able to actually walk down the driveway
without sinking into the muck.
I also scraped the muck off one of the cherry trees.
It was thicker and stickier than it looked, really awful stuff,
so I needed to get fresh topsoil to replace all that was tainted.
I then watered with our mycorrhizal-infused canal water,
and applied a thick layer of eucalyptus mulch.
I have five more trees to rehabilitate this week.
Afterwards, we went to Odemira to get the registration for the ruin,
specifying that we have a little over 32 square meters to work with,
required by the architects for their planning purposes.
After picking up Marmalade from school,
we worked some more on the cork siding,
as Root times are good times to hang things.
We were not quite finished before dinnertime,
but got a lot of the more difficult pieces in place.
Friday was another Root day, and so we were able to finish.
We even have some cork leftover, to fill in some gaps on other parts of our exterior.
Oh, another update:
Our name was accepted by the Portuguese government,
so we will be officially registered as “moonfarmers”
for agricultural research (specializing in fungus, fruits, & vegetables)
based on the aspects of the movements of the moon and stars,
and nature tourism, with our soon-to-be-renovated guesthouse,
for researchers, artists, friends, and family all looking for a retreat.
But back to today.
Although sequentially it should be a Flower time,
there was a Root trine today,
hence the carrot soup.
Santa got Marmalade a swing,
so Mohamed hung that from a branch of a cork oak tree.
Santa also got Marmalade a Hello Kitty bakery set and modeling clay,
so we spent a better part of the morning making clay pastries for the bakery.
Then I made a chocolate swirl cheesecake, which we’ve already eaten most of.
I spent a while this morning reflecting on the holidays,
which haven’t felt the same being so far
from my parents and extended family;
finally realizing that Marmalade is three,
this is really her holiday more than mine.
And we spent the day playing together,
and that is really the best thing I could do today.
Aside from the well-drilling,
I’ve tried to spend some quiet, positive time outside,
cutting back blackberries to access the ruin
and I’ve also spent a lot of time in the garden.
During Root time I picked some of our radishes.
They are an organic French Breakfast variety,
with a vibrant color, mild flavor and excellent crunch.
We love them dipped in herbed cream cheese.
Then yesterday, during the Leaf time,
I started to harvest the first of our Red Leaf Kale,
another organic variety from seeds brought over from America,
and tons of arugula, grown from organic seeds I got in Austria.
I didn’t have much time in the afternoon after all the harvesting,
but managed to make three batches of garlicky greens before the end of Leaf time:
(sauté two cloves finely chopped garlic, 1/2 cup finely ground nuts
& three huge handfuls~6 cups chopped greens in herb-infused olive oil,
just until wilted. splash with balsamic vinegar & store in glass jar under a layer of olive oil.
a few scoops of this with equal amount grated cheese makes an instant pesto,
also great stirred into soups and stews, and baked in mac & cheese or veggie lasagna).
Although the garden soil, or the rest of the property weren’t organic,
(& the pollution from well-digging definitely didn’t help any)
we are going to do everything that we can organically,
and although we can’t find any organic plants or fruit trees here,
last weekend I found some organic lettuce, spinach & eggplant seeds,
to add to the collection/crop-rotation.
Hopefully, over time, through our biologic practices,
especially mushroom farming, we will be able to purify the land.
(Oyster mushrooms are renown for their ability
to digest & remove petroleum from contaminated soil.
Aside from the spawn we’ve brought over with us,
that we are beginning to spread throughout the yard,
we found a native strain of Oyster mushrooms
fruiting on a cork oak log as we were sawing firewood.
Oysters propagate well from their myceliated stem bases,
so with proper care, we should be able to expand this strain
& spread these fungus throughout the affected areas of our yard.)
So back to the well-drilling:
late on the second day they found water with pressure,
hopefully Spring water, but we will have to get it tested to verify.
So they removed the drill, replaced the drill pipe with pvc pipe,
and capped it over for the weekend.
Today the dowser came back, to see the results of the drillers.
We have spring water, from 105 meters down,
but with only enough pressure to move it 99 meters up towards the surface,
leaving us 6 meters short, and in need of some sort of pump.
This upcoming week, we will research our options and figure out what to do next.
Unfortunately, the well drilling was way more expensive than the estimate,
leaving us with no funds for a pump, or much of anything else, really.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to rehabilitate our yard. For starters,
I have been putting all the grass clippings over the devastated driveway,
laying them over the sludge and filling in the ruts from the truck tires.
The clippings are full of seeds, to help regrow the mucked up areas.
We still need to scrap the clayish muck away from some of the fruit trees,
and then give them a proper mulching during the upcoming Root time.
And now that it’s switched over to Fruit time, the weather’s been much drier,
so Monday afternoon I did the silicon on the front wall of the bathroom.
And filled in the gaps of the insulation with scrap pieces of foam.
And after I started measuring out the wall for cutting the cork,
(which was challenging with the window frames and angled roof beams),
Mohamed got out the cork and we got to work, and are about half done.
Tomorrow is another day…
And the Winter Solstice!
So once our darkest day is over,
more light will shine,
improving our solar system for the foreseeable future.
The big well drilling machine arrived the other day.
It is huge. And next to it, an even larger generator to run it.
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.
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.
And they seem think it is possible.
They design and build with their own-made materials:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a beautifully warm and sunny Sunday.
So today we hung cork while the sun shined.
We bought the battery-powered drill on Saturday,
and it was a lot smaller than the picture suggested,
small enough, in fact, for Marmalade to use it
(with our supervision, of course).
So Mohamed put in some foam insulation to fill in the missing pieces,
then I re-measured the wall to plan where to out the panels
(they are 1 meter x 1/2 meter, and 5 cm thick,
but of course, our wall isn’t).
Luckily the cork panels are easy to cut,
even though almost 2 inches thick,
it cut like stale bread.
And even easier to hang,
especially with our new drill.
We hung the top pieces while Marmalade was distracted
playing with her lego-like fire truck that she got from Pai Natal
(a.k.a. Santa) at her holiday party at school.
Then when she started to get interested in our work,
we let her push the trigger to operate the drill,
while I held the screw and drill near the bit,
and Mohamed held the panels.
Within a few hours, we had a whole new exterior bathroom wall.
The second one will require a lot more measuring and cutting,
to fit around the windows, so we’ll tackle that when we get the time.
And they have a really nice natural smokey smell!
All in all, they are a great product,
locally-made, carbon-negative, 100% natural cork,
steam-treated, with no additives, and no production waste
Otherwise, since it was a Fruit time,
Marmalade helped me plant some more peas in the garden.
I also cleared some of the overgrowth from around the cherry trees.
Tomorrow’s my birthday,
so I’ll be making a cheesecake.
And since the oven will be on,
roasting a small hokkaido squash for a soup for dinner.
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.
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,
accidentally harvesting two; they were delicious.
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.
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.
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!