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.
When I’m awoken this morning,
the sky above is full of brilliant stars,
as if I had been asleep in a planetarium.
The night sky here is incredible.
And I sleep directly under a window.
And Marmalade wakes me up every morning,
like an alarm clock sometime between six and seven.
There is no light pollution whatsoever,
once Yves, the French bamboo farmer neighbor,
goes to bed, which is around 8 or 9 pm (20:00-21:00).
Before bedtime, Orion is huge above our front door,
and the Dipper is filling the Northern sky.
In the early morning,
my eyes are too bleary
to make out any constellations,
and by the time I’ve had my cup of coffee,
the sun is arriving from the East and a whole new sky delights:
pastel shades reflecting off a misty and frozen wonderland.
Today we have had a long day…
After Marmalade was dropped off at school
(during which time I was home trimming more overgrowth),
and the wood chips were collected and scattered,
(and planted a bamboo that was torn by a tractor and left roadside)
we had to go find the veterinarian in town,
recommended by the cafe owner in our village,
as one of Nutella’s cancerous tumors has grown,
and appears to be oozing and causing her discomfort.
I’m always nervous at the vets,
knowing there isn’t any really good news,
with a ten year old that has cancer and numerous tumors.
(I first found one small tumor on Nut when picking her up from friends,
after a few weeks away visiting family in Bahrain in the Spring of 2013.
During surgery to remove it in the summer of 2015,
the vet noticed this pea-sized one.
But it was too hot and too soon to operate again.)
So our midmorning began there.
Fortunate the vet and her assistant were lovely people,
compassionate and helpful, cleaning her tumor,
giving her antibiotics and pain killers,
and medicine for the few days until our next visit.
And while in town, we did a load of laundry,
as they have laundry machines in the parking lot outside the grocery store
(at 4€ per load, including eco-detergent, saving me 4 hours of hand washing).
And since it’s a Water day, and we were running dangerously low,
we went to the Spring and filled up our bottles with water.
The Spring is in a nice meadow, a little South of town,
with a catch basin pond and lots of wildflowers.
(We probably won’t be going there much longer,
as once we find a suitable pump and filter we will be using our well instead.
But for now, we enjoy going there, often having chance meetings with some other locals.)
Then we ran home to drop off water and hang the laundry to dry in the sun,
added some more bamboo posts to continue the fence,
before heading out again for more roadside mulch collecting,
and then picking up Marmalade from her kindergarten.
By the time I had dinner made and eaten (French toast & strawzzies)
and firewood cut and inside, the sky turned pastel.
The stars were coming out again,
ready for their nighttime display.
Last week, one afternoon while I was out trimming grass,
one of our usual passersby leaned out of his van
and said “muito trabalho” (a lot of work).
I think he was complimenting us on all the yard work we have done,
but perhaps he was pointing out all the work left to do.
Either way, I said “Sí, indeed.”
It has been a lot of work,
and continues to be so.
This morning I must’ve cleared 5 square meters (45 square feet) of our yard,
waist-high grasses and other dried stems of wildflowers
from around a giant cactus, the bases of a few of the cork oak trees,
and a patch where we want to put another garden box.
After laying the grass on the patched and regraded driveway,
we’ve been adding mulch, bucketsful, until it feels almost like carpeting.
(We collect and scatter 8 big buckets and two sacks full of mulch each weekday,
and have been all month, and will continue to do so until we run out of mulch or yard.)
We are more than halfway up the driveway path, and halfway up the bamboo path, too.
Also, this past weekend was a Flower transplanting time,
so, as you might have guessed, we’ve transplanted a lot of flowers.
First, while out getting mulch, I dug up two huge clusters of a purple wildflower,
and replanted them in cork planters around the front of the house.
I had been eyeing them for awhile, as they’re really vibrant for January flowers,
and had been waiting until this transplanting time to bring some home.
And then, after clearing several barrels of blackberries from the ruin,
we were able to dig out and transplant more honeysuckles,
to weave into, and almost complete, our first stretch of honeysuckle fence.
(I had woven a gown out of Virginia creeper vines years ago,
and this fence project has tapped into that tactile memory.)
While finishing up weaving the last tendrils of honeysuckle,
I noticed something out the corner of my eye creeping along the fence.
At first I thought it might be a spider, but soon saw that it was a mantis,
a kind like I’d never seen before: brown, horned, with a curled scorpion-like tail.
Its movements were slow (maybe due to the chilly weather) yet precise,
and after two days it has remained on the fence, not far from where we met it.
I’m glad it’s moved in: “good fences make good neighbors!”
Otherwise, I’ve been baking,
(since it heats up the house, body and soul):
lots of muffins ( hokkaido squash-walnut
and carrot cakelets with cream cheese frosting),
and wholegrain sourdough rolls stuffed with melty cheese
(I accidentally made sourdough a weeks ago, when extra pizza dough went sour,
so I fed it and fed it and fed it again, and now has become a sourdough starter,
so a lot more sourdough baking projects await.)
And while the oven is on,
I’ve been roasting chestnuts.
Marmalade is absolutely nuts for them,
and we all can’t resist them fresh from the oven.
As an aside, I’d love to get a chestnut tree,
but I’m not sure it could survive here.
(They do grow in Portugal,
but from my experiences hiking in Italy,
they prefer colder, more mountainous settings.)
We also want to get a walnut tree,
and from our experience in Austria,
where they grew in sunny patches near lakes and streams,
we should be able to grow one in the sunny roadside near the pond.
We are nuts for nuts,
and they go well with all the fruit we are growing.
And they’d go great in all the muffins I’ve been baking.
Wednesday was the three month anniversary of life in our new home,
and to celebrate, I started rebuilding the fence,
using bamboo found along the boundary between our properties.
“good fences make good neighbors”
Another day of beautiful weather, so we spent most of the day outside,
first clearing blackberries at the ruin, which has gotten to be more fun.
Along the west façade, there is a knee deep stack of harvested cork,
some pieces that are real gems: hollowed rounds perfect as planters
and long flats for the sidewalk, all destined to landscape around our house.
And now that I can actually work inside the ruin, I feel like an archaeologist,
unearthing bits of wall and roof tiles, all covered in liverwort and mushrooms,
clearing out the old thorny canes, while freeing the honeysuckles for transplanting.
As it turned back to Northern transplanting time, coinciding with Flower time,
we began the transplanting, replanting honeysuckles along the fence infront of the ruin.
We only got about half of the fence completed, so will resume during the next Flower time.
We have spent a lot of time rehabilitating that whole section of the property,
as it got washed out, and muddy and mucky during the well-drilling operation.
So almost daily we spend time flattening the ruts, laying grasses over the mud,
and covering the whole area with a layer of eucalyptus mulch,
which we collect in buckets roadside on our way back
from picking up Marmalade from school each day.
And, I’m pleased to report that after a month and a half of kindergarten,
Marmalade has finally adapted to school.
Before, she would look teary-eyed as I carried her out each day,
but now, she wants to stay and play outside with her friends.
The garden is coming along quite well,
some things had been slow to sprout,
but almost everything is growing fine,
and some, like the onions, radishes and arugula,
are growing beyond imagination.
As Mohamed commented: “the radishes look ravishing!”
Friday was a Leaf day, so I began transplanting
some variegated leafy plants from the ruin
to cork planters in front of the bathroom wall.
And as wild mint gets accidentally uprooted while clearing overgrowth,
that gets transplanted too, into their own cork containers.
Before the end of Transplanting time (about two weeks),
we hope to transplant out all the honeysuckle from inside the ruin,
as well as a small tree/giant shrub that is growing in the center of the main room.
We also need to continue to transplant grass from the garden to our naturkeller roof,
so that the view from the kitchen window will be green,
and so there will be room to plant some red potato “eyes”
once we get through this real cold snap.
Our pond has been filling nicely,
bubbling and gurgling as the levels rise.
There haven’t been any wildlife moving in yet,
aside from the occasional thirsty bird and mating dragonflies,
but perhaps in the Spring we will find some tadpoles to move over.
While it’s been so nice outside, we’ve been continuing to work on the house,
using the cork siding scraps to replace the foam sections of our façade.
This weekend, we worked on the coldest, dampest, shadiest part of our house,
the section on the North side where the bathroom joins to the kitchen,
which turned out to be a much larger project than we originally hoped.
This section of wall was filled with styrofoam and spray insulation foam,
and besides being an eyesore, it was very welcoming to the mice,
who easily bored a hole through the mishmash of foam,
which caused the wood directly underneath to rot,
allowing them, and anything else, an access into the bathroom wall.
So after scraping out all of the old foam,
Mohamed cut away and replaced a section of rotted wood,
and added two more panels of wood that were missing.
Then another tube of silicon to seal the seams and fill the mouse-holes,
and the roofline of the kitchen and the far wall of our bedroom.
Then we cut and fitted the cork into the cleared out space,
which will hopefully keep the bathroom warmer,
since the mouse-hole went directly from the outside into the bathroom,
into a section of spray foam surrounding the sewage pipe next to the toilet,
causing an unpleasant draft during the cool morning hours.
Otherwise, during the Fruit time, I finished weeding and mulching all of the old fruit trees,
so they should be prepared for any cold spells that might befall us before Spring.
And Marmalade and I planted more peas and snow peas in the garden.
And I spent the afternoon moving and arranging natural cork pieces around our house
(I’ve found a huge pile of cork bark while clearing away the blackberries from the ruin,
some large sheets, great for the sidewalk, some smaller flat pieces for stepping stones,
and some hollowed-out rounds, perfect to fill with soil and use as planters.
Meanwhile, the birdsong and warm weather has really been invigorating…
never did we imagine the weather would be so nice here!
Speaking of birds, we have a small robin who keeps coming to visit,
at first stopping at the doorstep, but recently venturing further,
under the table in the living room, then exploring everywhere; and frequently,
several times a day walking into a room and seeing him perched on something.
Since yesterday it turned into Root time,
I started soaking some organic rainbow beet seeds
for sowing this afternoon after Marmalade returned from school.
She gets a bit impatient while I’m preparing the soil,
but she’s very diligent while planting,
ensuring the seeds go where they should
and covering over them once planted.
She’s shown so much growth while gardening.
(Thanks Dad for the seeds!)
This morning was our coldest yet, frost everywhere,
even our pond had a thin layer of ice on top.
Our water lines were frozen until mid-morning,
but the house remained relatively warm from the fire the night before,
so I guess all the cork siding and silicon caulking has worked.
A little after dawn, the sun started melting the frost on the hillside,
and by mid-morning the sun was hot, it became a really warm day.
So much so that we decided to seek shade for our afternoon project:
felling a tree in the woods.
Awhile back, after a windstorm,
I noticed a dead eucalyptus tree leaning across a trail in the woods.
It was a big tree, and already dead, so perfect for firewood,
and yielding enough wood for us to keep warm all winter,
probably with extra for cooking out in the Springtime.
It was solid, hard as hell to saw through,
and hard to actually get to the ground,
as the top was caught up on the hillside across the path.
But eventually we got it into pieces and dragged it home.
All in all. it was a lovely afternoon in the woods,
with the birdsong and the babbling stream,
and the incredible smell of eucalyptus in bloom.
There was a bumper sticker I once saw in Vermont:
“cut your own wood and it warms you twice”
I like collecting firewood: finding it, sawing it, dragging it home.
I like building fires, I like the bone-warming heat they provide,
the glow, the whispery wind through the stove when the flames flare up…
We’ve been fortunate so far this winter with really mild weather.
Actually, I’m not sure that for here this is “mild” weather,
but sunny days in the mid-60’s (F, around 16-18 C)
is far nicer than we expected when we packed up to move here.
But our neighbors warned that this was predicted to be a really cold winter,
so we are trying to get prepared with firewood and such.
Mohamed came down with a cold earlier in the week,
probably from the drastic differences in temperature from day to night
(we get a healthy frosting each night, which melts by midmorning).
I caught his cold a few days later, and felt downright awful for a full day,
causing me to dig out our medicinal teas, herbal cough drops, and wear a scarf.
I became much more sensitive to the drafts in our house,
noticing that certain areas always felt cold and breezy,
even when the rest of the house was warm.
So we investigated our exterior walls more thoroughly,
and took note of several gaps and cracks and problem areas,
(that we saw before, back when our bathroom had been our top priority)
including three small sections of wall that were just filled with foam
(our wooden house is a composite of three garden houses,
and between them hollow walls, that were just stuffed with styrofoam).
So once we felt a little better, we filled the gaps,
put up some wooden panels along the roof line,
and a few tubes of silicon to seal all the cracks,
and go around several of our windows.
Then we used our extra pieces of cork siding
to male small sections to cover over the hollow walls,
creating cool little stripes of cork between the white wood of the garden houses.
Overall, much warmer,
especially in our bedroom!
Otherwise, we’ve been having a quiet holiday,
doing puzzles, reading books and watercolor painting with Marmalade,
watching our mole in action with its own home-improvement projects,
and cutting away more of the blackberries surrounding the ruin.
Yesterday I made it to the cornerstone,
finding cute little mushrooms had made it there before me,
and by this afternoon I could actually see inside to the “floor”.
Marmalade has been asking for relatives to come and visit her,
(as Skype is nice, but not the same as a real family visit)
so I’ve been working on the ruin so we have a place for everyone to stay,
hopefully by this Springtime.
While out in the garden,
a white passenger van drove by,
one that we’ve waved to often,
and often “beeps” in return.
They slowed down to a halt,
and shouted out the window
“Happy New Year!”