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

finding (our own) Findhorn

After an afternoon spotting of all five of our tree frogs,
I immediately found another one laying in the arugula patch,
when I went to check on why their flowers had flopped over.

(Update: So we have seven tree frogs. At least.
The next morning’s frog spotting yielded six tree frogs on the cattails in the pond.
So I was quite surprised when I went to upright those fallen arugula blossoms,
and the arugula-loving tree frog was still there, albeit a bit over to the left,
from where we had left it hanging out the evening before.)
We are guessing this adventurous frog is the one we found in the onions.

When we had friends visiting last weekend,
they were surprised that we aren’t using common machinery for our yardwork,
and even offered to let us borrow from their tool shed:
especially a lawn mower, weed whacker, and chainsaw.
{And I’m sure a tiller will be added to the list,
as we’re breaking up and raking out a whole section
“Horta Nova” (new garden) for our three sisters trials.}

First of all, you can’t hear the birds sing when using machinery;
and without the birdsong, yardwork becomes a lot more “work”
instead of the pleasant experience of interacting in our natural space.

But we decided this path of manual interaction
long before we decided and then moved to Portugal.
The final chapter in one of my favorite books* is called “Findhorn & the Garden of Eden”
about six people who decided to move to an old caravan park
on the inhospitable windswept dunes of Northern Scotland.
Not the ideal place to set up an organic, sustainable farming commune;
yet through their patience, hard work, and perseverance, they did just that:
transforming infertile and unforgiving land into a paradise.
When pressed as to how they were able to accomplish this feat,
they mentioned using whatever they could scavenge
as garden, building, or compostable materials,
seeing a roadside hay-bale as a godsend.
And we have followed their mentality,
with the fallen bamboo and roadside woodchips.
But the thing that struck me the most that
they were putting their positive, loving energy
into their home and the soil through their bare hands;
that direct contact in a purposeful, meaningful way was the key to their success.
“Following the concept of the monks who used to build their monasteries by hand,
putting love and light into the fabric of the building with every stone they laid…”

(This has always been my approach to my artwork.
And really, anyone who really knows me knows that I will always do things by hand,
I’m a painter, after all. Using oil paints, no less; technology from the Renaissance.
Also, I am partly descended from the Pennsylvania Dutch,
a group of immigrant farmers that shied away from modern technology.)

During the Flower and subsequent Leaf time, I’ve been back in the garden,
staking up the peas, which have begun to flower,
and planting new seeds in whatever little bare spaces I can find:
a first trial of martuço, a traditional Portuguese salad green related to carrots
(heirloom seeds given to me by our Portuguese language teacher),
then two varieties of organic lettuces and some more garlic chives,
as the garlic chive seeds I planted last month haven’t seemed to come up yet.
(Update: The martuço seeds have all sprouted already!
Heirloom seeds grown for generations in this climate,
so strong and ready to face the day.)

I’ve also been working some more on the bamboo fence,
and hope to have it completed soon, maybe this weekend,
so that around its base can be planted next month:
with morning glories, sweet peas, and climbing nasturtiums.

After another Unfavorable day, we move on to two Root days,
so I’ll get the last potato sprouts into the garden,
as well as a carrot top that started sprouting.
(After cutting off the sprouting section,
I lay them on a shallow plate of water.
In about a week, they develop dozens of thin white roots,
& are then ready for transplant the next Root time.
I had read that potatoes started this way mature a whole month faster;
great for both cold climates’ short season & warm climates’ beating the summer heat.)

I’m also putting in a row of purple onions,
since I finally found purple onions last weekend at Aldi,
as a kind of divider between the bush beans and the carrots.
(Also I read that the onions will deter the carrot pests.)

Otherwise, we’ll be working on overturning the “Horta Nova”
trying to get it cleared enough to plant with buckwheat during the next Flower time
(as a cover crop for green manure, where we will plant the three sisters this summer).

And setting up a beehive.
We are new to this, and although we’ve read up on placement and such
(facing southeast, mostly sunny, but with midday shade, water & flowers nearby),
we have no experience to draw upon.
We were told from the farmer in Rogil that since
there are so many wild honeybees around,
you can set out a hive and attract tenants.
We have four varieties of bees at the arugula, kale and mustard flowers all day,
in particular, lots of honeybees; so we will put the hive under a cork oak nearby,
with the opening facing the garden.
Yesterday when I was checking the garden,
I watched a honeybee leave the garden flowers
and hover right over where we plan to put our hive.
In fact, I’ve seen many small honeybees seemingly lost,
after a round of flower feeding, they just sorta fly around looking for a place to land.
So we will set out the hive and hope for the best.

* The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, 1973.
Also, another favorite of ours is Secrets of the Soil, also by Tompkins and Bird, 1998;
which more closely covers aspects of Biodynamic farming,
pedology/soil microbiology and soil conservation,
including such gems as that plants perform the transmutation of elements,
(in other words “alchemy”) and the role of both weeds and insects in the garden.

I may be the only gardener to puff dandelion seeds into their planting beds;
but their flowers attract beneficial insects and I find them easier to weed than many others, as well as their leaves a healthy and delicious addition to whatever greens I’m harvesting.
Within the soil, their deep taproots break up clods deep below
and retrieve nutrients for all the garden plants to enjoy.

As for insects, I tend to leave most of them alone.
I’ve had people ask specifically about slugs and caterpillars,
and my attitude is that if they are consuming a lot of the leaves of a plant,
I might remove those leaves with their diners and toss them in the compost.
But I have birds peck through the garden for their breakfasts,
and I prefer to keep the ecosystem intact.

I especially love the butterflies that those caterpillars will become,
so losing a few leaves of kale to bring about a butterfly,
who will pollinate those same kale plants a few months later,
to me is a welcome sight, as I enjoy being a part of their circle of life.

Leave a Comment (0)