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

a little bit more

So this week has been unseasonably warm,
almost summer-like, reaching the upper 20’s,
even though it’s not quite Spring yet.

And many of my flowers are in full bloom!
From wild bulbs emerging on the hillside,

to the anemones I planted in the fall,

to the tropical flowers I transplanted earlier this week,

and wildflowers transplanted all around the house,

to the arugula and kale blossoms that are feeding the bees,

and the mustard that is finally in bloom all around the broccoli.

So the cool season garden crops have been thirsty,
as have our newly transplanted trees and flowers,
and our pond has been low yet still full of frogs,
because our from-the-canal water system
is 360 meters of pain-in-the-@ss hoses through the forest
that semi-continuously clog and need weekly maintenance.
The pond was flowing and full again for the weekend,
and so we witnessed seven happily swimming frogs,
and were able again to fill the garden watering can easily.

We are trying to get a manual pump for our well;
the best we found is a huge antique from Northern Portugal.
We have been trying to figure out how to actually get it here,
and unfortunately the sellers haven’t been all that helpful.
We’re also trying to get a rooftop solar hot water system,
and Mohammed spoke to the local supplier,
and so it seems that should happen soon.
(Though right now, our house’s hillside water storage tank
has been getting quite hot just from the late morning sun,
so all our water is becoming “solar” hot water.)

And we’ve been having more problems with our solar system:
not the panels themselves, we think, though we could use a few more,
but the transformer that converts solar to battery to house electric
frizzes out anytime it gets too warm or we start to generate too much power
(which is when we need the power to keep our cooler cool).
So Mohammed found better equipment for sale,
and has arranged to pick it up from the guy at Aldi this week
(the seller is German & although he lives an hour away,
he makes trips to Aldi to pick up groceries he cannot find elsewhere).
So it’s become super convenient to live near Aldi.
And if this new transformer/converter and loader work out,
we’ll actually be able to run our refrigerator!
(Won’t we be getting civilized!)

And I’ve been adding a lot more to the bamboo fence,
completing the longer segment and already about a third done
with the shorter segment that will wrap around the side of the pond.

Next Flower time I will start some climbing nasturtiums and sweet peas
for both the bamboo fence and trellises around the perimeter of our house.
There have been a lot more insects now that the weather has warmed.
Yeah, the mosquitoes are back, as are the mantises and grasshoppers
and a plethora of butterflies. (They never entirely went away, but now we have tons!)
At least a dozen varieties, (Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells, Cleopatras & Clouded Yellows,
Painted Ladies, Common Blues, Large Cabbage Whites, & new to me, Spanish Festoons)
spotting several of each, all fluttering around,
and even one Painted Lady founds its way inside.

And we found some that aren’t quite butterflies yet,

and a few that are just beginning their journeys as caterpillars.

But we also have these huge, I’m-not-sure-what-they-are, maybe a cicada-type relative.
I think we saw one crawling out of the garden last weekend, sorta grasshopper-like,
almost 6 inches/15 cm long, with two earwig-like curved spiky things at its tail.
Huge, when flying they look like small birds, but with two sets of wings.
At twilight they are loud, ear-piercingly so.
Totally bizarre.

Friday was a Stem day, and still during the transplanting time,
so after dropping Marmalade off (earlier, for a class trip to the library)
we went and dug out a really nice wild fennel,
to transplant and add to our wild fennel patch.

After picking up Marmalade from school,
we went over to the beach in Zambujeira do Mar.
The water was incredible! Not quite warm, but not too cold either,
and I probably could’ve stayed in for longer than the twenty minutes I was in,
but wanted to give Mohamed a chance to swim, too.
It was my first time swimming this year (since November really,
& Mohamed’s second time this year, since he went in in January,
when I only braved it up to my knees. It was pretty cold then.)

On the way home from the beach, Mohamed asked me if we could move here,
joking, of course, but asked because we are in awe of the ocean
so much that we want to be able to return often.

I told him that of course we’re moving here,
because it’s too far a drive from anywhere to just come for a short visit.
Sometimes we do get bogged down in home repairs and yard work,
so it’s really nice to step back a bit and go on an instant vacation.

The weekend was Fruit (& grain) time,
so I’ve planted a few rows of red amaranth in the garden,
and we transplanted our prickly pear cactus
(rooted from a pad taken at our last campsite in southern Spain),
and two rose bushes that we got at Aldi (for 1.49€ each, who could resist?)
hoping that they will produce both massive orange flowers and then rosehips,
which make a healthy and wonderfully tart tea.

Also, while watering all our fruit trees I noticed that two more have blossomed.

(The previous owners said they planted apples, cherries, pears & two kinds of plums,
but didn’t specify which trees were which, though the apples had apples,
so the white blossoms most likely means these are pears.)

And speaking of noticing things,
this afternoon I spotted three wild asparagus emerging from around the ruin,
in an area that used to be covered in blackberries.
So yay! I’m excited aBout wild purple asparagus.
But yeah, three don’t quite make a dinner,
or much of an asparagus patch once transplanted.
So I started clearing more blackberries around these three plants,
hoping that the Spring rains will encourage more to emerge.

Leave a Comment (2)

Toie wrote on Mar 15:

Beautiful! We're having a blizzard here today. 18-20 inches of snow. Maybe more. Nice to see it's spring somewhere. <3

co-director (s) wrote on Mar 14:

Wow, amazing, the first SWIM?? We are expecting 25cm of snow tonight...