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

We’ve been overdoing it

And while overdoing it, Mohamed hurt his back.
While loading mulch into the trunk of our car,
or maybe while carrying barrels of blackberries to the compost,
he upset an old injury from a falling-onto-a-fence accident.
He’s begun doing self-acupuncture,
using spines from a cactus in our yard,
to ease the pain and unblock channels for recovery.

While slowing our progress for certain yard projects,
(while he takes time to rest, recover, and recuperate)
this has given me an opportunity to refocus on gardening:
clearing and preparing our yard to extend the garden,
as I want to at least triple our planting space this first season.

First and foremost, it had been 4 days of Root time,
so we’ve been clearing out the rest of the last garden box,
planting more beets and carrots (thanks Dad for the new seeds!),
and making space for the last 9 potato transplants that I’ll put in next Root trine.

As it has gotten a bit warmer and very Spring-like,
some of our winter kale and arugula have begun to flower.

We have so much arugula that the bunches I pick daily aren’t noticeable
in the sea of green leaves that is our first garden box.
And I’ve been harvesting the lower leaves of the kale tonight,
(for the most incredible garden kale, (our own) chanterelle, and roasted squash calzone)
while leaving the flower stalks to bloom and go to seed,
as I’m out of kale seeds and will want to plant more this fall.

Also, we’ve just received fifty seeds for artichokes,
the purple Italian Violetta di Chiogga heirloom variety,
so during Flower time, I began soaking and planting seeds.
As each plant will need a square meter of space,
I’ve been planning and clearing out a space for our artichoke patch.
This area of the yard had once been used as a garden,
but that was at least a dozen years ago.
So I’ve got a lot of work to do to revive it.

Downhill and adjacent to the artichoke patch,
I’ve begun clearing a nice flat area for my “three sisters” patch.
The Native American concept of the “three sisters” are an interplanting
of corn, beans and winter squash, each plant benefitting the others for compatible growing.
I’ll be experimenting with growing popcorn, various local and Austrian beans,
and winter squash seeds (hokkaido, blue ballet, & butternut)
that I’ve saved from all the organic squash we’ve eaten since moving to Europe.
Although I won’t be growing these plants until late Spring,
I’m clearing the area now to plant some buckwheat as a cover crop,
giving the area a boost of blossoms and then, once dug under, green manure.

Also, downhill from our garden boxes towards the compost,
I want to extend the garden in a semicircular space,
using the wild mint as a boundary,
to create another planting place.

Originally, I thought about planting asparagus there this Spring,
but now think I might use the area for other plants this season,
since I don’t think I’ll have enough room for cucumbers and the loofah squash,
and plant out asparagus next year, after enriching the soil.
Just beyond this area, yesterday I found a few thorny bushes under the overgrowth.
I’m not exactly sure what they are, but as they look like they were intentionally planted,
I’m assuming they’re some type of German berry bush that the previous owners put in.
They might be Stachelbeeren, I’ll try to identify them once they leaf out or blossom.

With the warmer temperatures, much of the surrounding towns
and even some parts of our yard seem like Spring has already sprung

(one yard we passed by today already had saucer magnolias in full bloom);
while other sections of our property are still in their Winter dormancy.
These changes in the weather seem normal for here,
and so I’ve been observing all of our microclimates
to understand the patterns for years to come.

This Friday and Saturday were the final Flower transplanting times for this cycle,
so we’re super busy planting bulblets from the wild irises from the water Spring,
repotting flowers (I just got a new one from the teahouse that holds our Portuguese classes),

and transplanting honeysuckles from our ruin

and wild irises from the forest.

Otherwise, Nutella’s not doing so well.
Her tumor has grown to triple size in only a few weeks.
The veterinarian looked really sad during her last check-up,
(as she’s grown quite fond of Nut, too),
saying that there wasn’t much she can do,
and warning us of the inevitable.
But she is still herself:
napping on the sofa, laying in the sun, and begging for food;
and doesn’t seem to be in much pain,
so we’re just trying to keep her comfortable.
Focusing on flowers has helped keep the tears away.

So after we got back home,
we figured out how to put together the arbor for behind our bedroom window.
It is made from wood railings we found while hiking in the woods in Austria,
with wood scrap found here in the center, supporting our water line.
Marmalade helped put it together once we all got back from her school.
Along the sides, we’ve got three cork planters now full of honeysuckle transplants,
to add a bit of life, and bumblebee food, to that part of our place.

Today switches over to a couple of Leaf days,
so I plan to plant more spinach.
And clean up a bit (or hopefully a lot)
since the architects are coming for a site visit this week.

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