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)




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you don’t get rainbows without a little rain

We have frogs!
At least three, all living in our pond.
Which is great, because the insects have taken notice and started to move in,
so the frogs are extremely welcome to eat, drink and be merry.
And make their adorable communications at dusk.

They occasionally make loud croaking noises,
it almost sounds like a off-key ducks quacking, especially around dusk,
and started last week with the first one probably calling its friends over,
but today we heard three distinct voices,
and have seen two lounging on the cattails,
while a third had splooshed into the pond as we approached.

We are really excited to have a pond,
and have put a lot of work into keeping it flowing.
it is a natural puddle that was dug deeper into the clay,
now with a few clusters of cattails growing within,
but naturally won’t hold most of its volume.
So we ran a hose into it from our gardening water,
and so the water flows downhill and bubbles into the pond,
keeping the water aerated and preventing stagnation.
I’ve cleared the overgrowth from around its banks,
and during the next Flower transplanting time,
I will transplant several wild irises from the nearby woods,
and also several dozen of the wild iris seeds,
that I’ve collected from stalks in the patch growing at the nearby Spring,
replanting them all around the perimeter of the pond,
to bring some color to that part of the yard.

During the most recent Flower transplanting time,
we moved more of the honeysuckle vines
out of the ruin and onto the fenceposts in front.
There is also a wild rosebush growing out of the front of the roof
that we plan to move that to a nearby fencepost as well.
(The ruin is built of tiapa, compressed earth,
so very fertile for these wildflowers.)
There is also a huge old grapevine trailing over the wall
from the neighbors’ yard. We intend to nurture it as much as possible,
incorporating it into our patio trellis, and encouraging it to form roots down on our side.

The ruin is now completely cleared of blackberry bushes,
and after a few more Flower and Fruit transplanting days,
will be cleared of honeysuckles and some saplings as well.

We met with our neighbor that owns the rest of the ruin last weekend,
to discuss property boundaries, building plans, and such.
He’s an elderly Dutch man, who also gave us some history of the area:
the ruin across the street used to be a mill, set on a canal from our river.
The canal has been filled in, now planted with bamboo.

The ruin (that we partially own, we have the workshop/stable,
he owns the four-room house itself) was the birthplace
of the father of the farmer who lives uphill from all of us.
Upon someone’s death, the land was split up by inheritance,
and the ruin, too, was divided.

Their section of the ruin is beautiful,
totally overgrown with trees inside the rooms.
I dream of clearing out the blackberries
and transforming their space into a flower garden,
but I like it as is, and am really glad that they have left it untouched.
They also own the land directly across the street from us,
that is very fertile land completely overrun with blackberries,
it would make great goat pasture.

But as for our land, at the moment we have our hands full.
There are some overgrown oak trees intermixed with blackberries,
really they are tangles of sucker-growth from big old stumps,
intertwined with blackberries, creating unhealthy, unbalanced growth.
So we’ve been pruning them back, uncovering a cactus garden in the process.

It has been a lot of work,
during which my mind keeps pondering
about the spaces we tend,
and the spaces left untended.
Years ago, while reading a book on Fungshui for the home,
I came across a passage about how clutter disrupts the flow within a room,
and how the placement of the clutter can have reverberations in the rest of life.
So expanding the concept and applying it to our property,
any neglected area of our yard will affect more than its own space,
any place not tended with love could infect those that are.
Since these neglected areas surround our home,
especially clustered on a hillside above our bedroom,
I think it is essential to transform this space:
a terraced pathway full of strawberry fields.

Once these oak trees are pruned back and reined in,
we will have a lot more sunny hillside with rick soil for planting strawberries.
Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law who sent us strawberry seeds for Christmas,
enough for 50 square meters (450 square feet) of strawberry fields,
so we’ll be clearing a lot of land for planting them.
We also will be transplanting a fig tree cutting nearby,
because they grow really well here and we love figs
almost as much as we love strawberries.

Both are great fresh,
fingers dripping with their juices.

Every morning when we awake,
we are relieved that this is our home.
We are so grateful to live here.

Last weekend a Swiss couple from our Portuguese class came to visit
with their four-year-old son, Sebastian. He and Marmalade played really nice,
even holding hands while walking through the path in the bamboo forest.
They live about 10 minutes away, on 11 hectares of land,
on the winding road that leads to one of the markets
(passing four horses, two pigs, a few goats, and countless fields of sheep).
We plan to stop and visit their homestead on our next shopping trip.
It’s nice to have friendly people come to visit, share advice,
and slowly becoming friends through our weekly interactions.

And as our Portuguese skills become more extensive,
we are more able to communicate with the locals:
mostly farmers and shepherds from the older generations,
who have all been kind, friendly, and generous,
especially once Marmalade smiles and says “Bom Día”
which warms even the most guarded hearts.

I’m sure some might be suspicious of foreigners moving in,
yet those that we’ve met, and who’ve seen the work we’ve been doing,
have given kindly nods and wave, sometimes stopping for short chats;
which has gone a long way in making us feel at home here.

It’s now the weekend,
and today is a rainy Root trine,
during Northern transplanting time,
so today I planted out our first batch of sprouted potato tops,
between passing showers.

garden helper extraordinaire

You don’t get rainbows without a little rain.

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