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.
Marmalade has been helping to decorate her playhouse,
which is still under construction, yet now functional.
And we’ve been working on painting the house.
And catching up on laundry, and getting groceries, and spring water.
And harvesting armfuls of produce from the garden:
spinach, onions, snow peas, mustard, cilantro, fennel, and purple broccoli!
And I planted an insane number of flower seeds during last Flower time.
Hollyhocks and morning glories over by the bamboo fence.
More morning glories in cork planters around the house.
Calendula in the garden, and in little flowerpots,
as well as lemon balm, Mexican tarragon,
and cinnamon and Genoese basils.
And seeds for more sweet peas and sunflowers,
and over a dozen seeds for purple lupines,
wild-collected and brought over from Austria.
And over by the flooded part of the road,
I scattered seeds for magenta-blossomed “Springkraut”
(which literally translates to “jumping herb”)
an Austrian invasive flower from the Himalayas,
similar and related to the touch-me-knot.
We’ve been seeing the fish more frequently when visiting the pond,
at least the three bright-colored ones.
Most especially the bright orange and silver one,
who seems to seek me out as much as I seek them.
The two dark ones are much harder to find,
though the dark goldfish is often in the shadows near the golden one,
but the dark and yellow speckled koi is so elusive
that it hasn’t been seen since their release.
While over at the pond,
we noticed that one of the wild bulbs
we transplanted has begun to bloom.
Turns out that I was mistaken and they’re not wild irises,
although their leaves are flattened one-dimensionally,
their blossoms are very, very different.
Nonetheless, it is nice to see them bloom!
And while over by the bamboo fence,
we noticed that many of the hollyhocks have sprouted,
and some of the morning glories have come up as well,
so the flowering of the fence is off to a good start.
At the beginning of the week we planted two roots of Lantana,
pollinator-friendly flowering bushes given to us by the Sebastians,
so we got those in the ground into previously neglected areas of our yard.
And then during these past few days of Root day,
we’ve worked a lot on the outdoor kitchen area,
digging holes and adobe cementing in bamboo supports,
that are being interwoven into the support for the pergola.
Aside from the wisteria, and a volunteer honeysuckle,
we plan to plant the area this year with six cucumber plants:
I’ve started trellis-climbing small lemon-yellow organic cucumbers,
that supposedly have so mild flavor that you eat them like apples.
So we’ve been working on their planting holes and climbing poles.
Otherwise, we went nuts at Aldi and bought irrigation hoses, sprayer nozzles,
and a small 1000 watt electric pump that will hopefully work with our artesian well,
once we get a couple more solar panels to run it.
We also started working on our bathroom renovation again,
and then went to a hardware store and got the cement
so I can begin making glass bottle mosaic panels
(within wooden fruit crates) to fill in the area under the tub.
Tomorrow begins Flower time again,
and tomorrow evening begins transplanting time again,
and Monday is the mercado in São Teotónio,
where we most likely will be buying more fruiting bushes and trees,
so another whirlwind awaits us.
But I’ve been leaving something out…
recently our whole world has opened up before us.
We took out our bicycles after all our visitors left,
and started biking along our little river
around the Bamboo Parque trails every day.
We had hiked the loops near our house frequently,
especially when foraging for fungus and firewood,
but never continued further until recently.
The paths remain relatively flat along the river
(unlike the huge steep hills that surround us on our dirt road)
so we can really explore far and wide.
It has been calming, refreshing, rejuvenating even,
and not just the heavy doses of fresh air and exercise,
but the freedom and adventure that exploration bring.
And it turns out that a lot of the shrubby things in our yard
are all related species of wild flowering shrubs,
the largest (& most exquisite) of these are the sea roses.
But there are also flowering orchid relatives and little wildflowers,
and a whole lot of lavender, flowering profusely.
And although not a wildflower,
the tangerine tree has begun to blossom.
And one of the eight blueberry bushes.
Getting our yard and garden ready for Springtime
has been exhausting, yet rewarding…
(& a good mental break for the mentally broke)
Oddly enough, one of the common “weeds” in our garden are calla lilies.
They are strangely stunted, because I had pulled some of their first leaves
before realizing what they were.
They were my grandmother’s wedding bouquet.
And I’m sure she’d be delighted to see them here.
The pond is flowing nicely, the frogs are less bashful,
and we’ve added five fish (3 goldfish & 2 koi) to our pond;
so now our pond visits have even more searchable creatures.
While we were adding the fish,
we actually got a glimpse of one of the tadpoles.
We had wondered what became of them,
and were kinda worried that one of the larger frogs might’ve eaten them
(if frogs would even do that), but at least a few have survived and are in fine form.
Also, we got a waterlily from our friend’s pond,
that seems to have transplanted nicely,
and showed off its first bloom.
Sapo, our toad, has been making almost nightly appearances.
Last night it was sitting in one of the yogurt cups
that I had planted with orange bell pepper seeds,
so I asked it to move along, which it did obligingly,
probably because I was shining the lantern on it.
After it moved aside, it crept into a crack on the porch,
seemingly to be living in the cavern of a cinderblock.
It is quite large, with very muscular arms and legs,
which it moves with silent precision
(well, except when it scuttles over the wood chips, then it is quite loud).
Otherwise, all our lizards are out and about,
scurrying across our walls and chimney,
and just plain sunning themselves.
They are still quite shy,
perhaps because we get excited to see them
and the excitement startles them.
Also, they are getting quite large.
And I’ve been even catching glimpses of one in the garden.
And while checking over at Nutella’s grave,
I saw a snake swerve over and into the nearby undergrowth.
The Hopi consider snakes the messengers to the Earth Mother,
as they travel into the underworld.
Last week we had a bunch of Root days,
and Mohamed’s father was in a getting-things-done mood,
so he helped Mohamed begin building Marmalade’s playhouse
(using all the scraps we’d been scavenging these past months)
and a pergola for over the outdoor kitchen area.
Meanwhile I had twisted my ankle and wasn’t very mobile,
but still busy preparing for a short and busy Flower transplanting time.
At first, I had 10 artichokes and a few climbing flowers to transplant,
but then we bought a Lantana flowering bush and two passionflower vines.
Then, while down in Rogil, for lunch at Batata Doce, we stopped by a garden shop
and got a wisteria, a jasmine, and a maracuja (passionfruit vine).
And some more of the blue ballet winter squash seedlings were ready for the ground,
as were a few more organic sunflower seedlings.
So we had a lot of transplanting to do.
We had a really eventful long holiday weekend.
On Saturday was Sebastian’s 5th birthday party,
and Sunday was Easter Sunday, and we had holiday breakfast at home.
And so taking the advice from Lee (“fake it til you make it”)
I helped Marmalade dye Easter eggs and sing bunny songs.
Monday we went to Nova Tero:
a horse (& goat & sheep) farmstead
run by a vegan German couple
who recently relocated from the Canary Islands,
where climate-change induced wildfires burned their forest home.
(Mohamed met them because we bought a solar inverter from them,
& befriended them & was curious to see their land & animals.)
They live an hour and change away, really in the middle of nowhere
(I thought we were kinda in the middle of nowhere,
but we can conveniently get to a market & a town, which they cannot).
The Sebastians came, too, partly so we could help each other find the place.
But mostly because they love horses, were curious to see Nova Tero,
and Marmalade and Sebastian play really well together.
I went because Marmalade asked me to.
Otherwise, I would’ve stayed at home,
as I haven’t been feeling very social.
Now we’re thankfully back home,
and back to our normal, quiet life fixing up the house and the garden.
The garden is getting huge,
and several plants are ready for harvest:
especially the broccoli and spinach,
with mustard greens and onions harvested for most of our meals.
And the peas are getting plump, so soon they’ll be ready too!
After some Fruit time cutting a fig branch to root,
and planting quinoa, yellow wax beans, and Auskernbohnen beans from Austria;
and planting strawberry seeds, Calabacita (round zucchini),
and a few more watermelon, eggplant and tomato seeds,
it has flipped over to Root time.
So we are building a trellis support for the maracuja and passionflower vines.
And since the temperature has dropped back to normal,
I started painting the house trim blue.
It’s nice to be painting again.
Over the next few weeks, we will paint the whole exterior of the house,
before all the planted climbing vines start climbing up the walls.
So I decided to get started.
This was going to be a post about the wildflowers
which are now beginning to bloom everywhere,
and the wildlife visiting all around our house.
And the fish we got for the pond,
and the things we’ve been building
and the things we’ve been planting.
But I’m not really in the mood tonight
to talk about the things we’ve been doing,
partly to improve our home,
and partly as a distraction.
Nutella’s health had been deteriorating throughout the week.
Her mobility was declining and her infections were festering.
Luckily, her suffering was minimal, and she slept a lot
before falling into the final sleep
on Good Friday.
We buried her this morning, out in our backyard,
on a sunny slope where she had often slept.
I will plant flowers there during the next favorable time,
some flowering bulbs that will bloom during her birthday in September.
She would’ve turned eleven.
My first hamster, Honey, also died on Good Friday.
Perhaps it is just a popular day for dying,
or perhaps there is more significance.
Good Friday always seemed a day of acceptance.
And this year is no different.
I hope for all the creatures I’ve known
that they would rise again,
reborn into new bodies,
to find a new place in the world.
But some I’ve bonded with more,
and Nut is there.
I’ve welcomed her to come back someday,
and we are working to make this home happy for her return.
But I don’t miss her in a possessive kinda way,
and just hope that she’s okay, happy really,
contented with whatever the future brings her.
I’ve been thinking about the expression “farewell”
which we often use for “goodbye”
but really is more like “bon voyage”
I wish her a good journey.
And want to remember all the good times we’ve had.
I’ve been grateful for her companionship.
Every month, on the first Monday of the month,
São Teotónio has a huge open-air market,
where vendors are selling everything from
fruits, cheeses, nuts, and honey,
from clothes and housewares to live rabbits and birds
(mostly chickens, but some ducks, geese, quail, turkeys & peacocks),
and garden seedlings, flowering plants, and fruit trees.
And fruit trees are mainly why we went,
aside from the general cultural experience;
and since my father was visiting,
and we had Marmalade home from school,
we all went together.
Though the deep-fried donut strips might have been everyone’s favorite part
(kinda like a Mexican churro, but without the ridges,
kinda like a Spanish churro, but lighter and less dense).
But yes, we went for the trees.
The Swiss family recommended the mercado for a walnut tree,
since we wanted to plant one next to the pond,
and couldn’t find one for sale anywhere else.
And we did find a few for sale, and purchased one fine specimen.
We also found a lime tree,
something else that’s been hard to find,
and on our wish list.
And a few of the u.f.o.-shaped peach trees,
so we got one of those, too.
And since I had only read about golden raspberries,
but never before seen them, I got two of those bushes, too.
I also saw all of the other trees on our list:
a persimmon, several nespera (which turns out to be a loquat),
and a few more apricots, pomegranates, and lemons,
since we hope to plant another of each of these.
But we stopped short of buying them,
since we couldn’t really carry anything else,
and we have a lot of holes to dig just for these.
And a few more holes to dig, too.
Last weekend, I picked up another red raspberry bush
and three more blueberry bushes,
so this upcoming Fruit transplanting time will be a doozy.
This time also coincides with a Fruit trine,
so it should be an especially good time for all the transplanting.
It’s been a Flower transplanting time,
so I repotted some of our flowering houseplants,
and was able to get eight artichoke seedlings into the ground,
so now half of them are now getting established.
Also, we’ve had another wildlife sighting.
While putting out some recycling around twilight,
I heard a scuttling noise so I ran in to grab the lantern:
it was a really large toad, “sapo” in Portuguese,
(green, spotted, and the largest I’ve ever seen)
walking across our porch, slowly, methodically.
Luckily it paused long enough for me get its portrait.
And another wildlife hearing.
While planting the raspberries under the moonlight,
we heard the most beautiful birdsong, unlike any we’ve heard before.
Our Portuguese teacher told us to listen out for nightingales,
saying that unlike other birds, their songs aren’t repeating melodies,
but long, almost improvisational, songs from the heart.
And as it was approaching midnight,
while backfilling around the raspberries,
with the stars and half moon shining bright,
it truly was a magical experience.
We’ve gotten the walnut tree in over by the pond,
the lime high up on the hill above the lemon tree,
the u.f.o. peach on the hillside near the other peaches,
and got the blueberries in during moonlight.
We’ve transplanted the first three blue ballet squash into the ground,
on the top of the hillside behind our bedroom windows.
There are two more seedlings a little behind these,
so they will go in next weekend at the final Fruit time
before the two-week transplanting time ends.
I’ve also transplanted another sunflower,
and the first tomato seedlings into the garden:
five red cherry tomatoes and two Stupice
(a small hardy heirloom from the Czech Republic).
And thanks to my father bringing over 33 new organic seed varieties,
I very excitingly started two dozen more tomato seeds:
four each of Cherokee purple, green zebras,
yellow pears, San Marzano (an Italian heirloom plum tomato),
Cuore di bue (“oxhearts” another Italian heirloom),
and Principe Borghese, the original sun-dried tomato,
as in ideal climates, the tomatoes will dry right on the vine.
I also started sugar baby watermelon seeds and loofah seeds,
for both the loofahs they grow and their young squash,
which are tasty when grilled or pickled.
And orange bell peppers and pineapple tomatillos.
Oh, and three seeds from nespera, the loquat;
which we finally tasted at Mohamed’s parent’s guesthouse,
and since it was a Fruit/Seed time (when the moon is in Leo),
saved the best seeds to hopefully start some new trees.
The garden is just lovely,
with the peas, broccoli, and everything else, really,
taking off with the increased daylight and temperatures.
Now we’re utterly exhausted,
as Spring often brings for gardeners;
and have four Root days to catch up, harvest radishes, and dig holes,
before we have a Flower transplanting time marathon.