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

new growth

So there are a lot of flowers blooming here

(it’s mid-May, there are flowers blooming everywhere, right?)
but since we arrived here while it was dried out and overgrown,
it’s been very interesting to see what actually grows here,

and many of these things are blooming.

And the butterflies have taken notice.
As have the bees, but mostly the bees (& other insects)
have been ecstatic in the hillside of wild sea roses,
rolling themselves in the pollen like some Dionysian fresco.

Before we flipped out of transplanting time,
I finally got the 75 gladiola bulbs planted underneath a giant cork oak.
And more sunflowers transplanted everywhere.
Admittedly, I kinda went nuts with sunflower seeds this year,
planting a dozen of two large yellow varieties
and dozens of seeds from two different assortments
of multicolored, multi-sized blooms.

The flowerheads on the largest of the sunflowers look ready to burst open.

It has been a busy time in the garden.
Now that we’re out of transplanting time,
I’ve been doing a lot of weeding,
focusing on each crop on its specific days,
and realizing that most of the remaining broccoli and spinach,
and lots of the beets and onions,

and a few of the carrots are all ready to harvest.


So we’ve been eating them, in soup, as salad, on pasta,
and my new favorite: roasted beet chips:

(slice beets thin on a mandolin, lightly coat with oil,
then lay individually on parchment on a baking tray,
& bake in a medium oven for 15-25 minutes, til crisp)

The first planted tomatoes now have little fruits on them,

and so do the tangerine and lime trees.

The orange and blood orange are in full flower.
And the blue ballet winter squashes have dozens of unopened flower blossoms,
so by the next post there will be some of their golden flowers on display.

Most of the other squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and watermelon
have all been freed from their plastic-bottle-greenhouses,
and have grown taller and showing off new leaves.

And there’s an on-going experiment in a large planter on our porch,
where I’ve emptied out cups of soil and seeds that hadn’t sprouted in the cold frame,
and now has three bush beans, one tomato and one dill growing lush,
far larger and more vibrant than their sibling seedlings in the garden.

And since I had freed up so many small cups during transplanting time,
I was able to start the seeds for Horta Nova, the organic three sisters garden:
32 strawberry popcorn seeds (a dozen already sprouted!) and seven yellow popcorn seeds,
27 Hokkaido squash plants (an orange winter squash that grows well in Europe),
and the first 10 Feuerbohnen (a large red & cream striped bean from Austria).

I will soak Käferbohnen (literally “beetle bean” an even larger reddish bean from Austria)
for a Käferbohnen salad (these beans with sliced green onions & pumpkin seed oil)
that was my favorite dish from the pasta factory’s cafe when we lived in Villach.
While soaking, I’ll grab two dozen (or maybe three dozen) from the pot for potting up.
(Usually beans, corn & squash are all direct-sown in the garden,
but we have a problem with mice eating the larger, more succulent seeds,
so I’m giving all these seeds a fighting chance in cups on the porch
where our “guard” kitten can keep a good eye on them.

I also potted up a dozen organic chickpeas that I had sprouted.
Chickpeas have very feathery, fern-like foliage on their delicate vines,
so I thought to plant them down by the loofahs to grow on the old compost bin.
And since loofahs and chickpeas both grow in Egypt,
it seemed like they’s get along nicely as neighbors.

Otherwise, we’ve been working to improve our water system.
Mohamed cleaned and then moved the house’s 1000 liter water tank
downhill halfway to our house, and into the shade.
It was originally placed on the top of the hill for good water pressure,
but the full sun site encouraged algae growth in the tank, and we want to avoid
the daily cycle of water heating and cooling in a big plastic tank.
Also, we wanted the tank closer to our well,
as we’ll soon be pumping water uphill to fill the house tank,
and then pipe it back down to our house,
and it was becoming a lot of piping.

So the house water now stays cooler, and therefore cleaner,
and we started a compost pile for shrubbery in its old place,
as it is hilltop, in full sun, full year, and relatively frost-free,
so ideal for growing some tropical trees: maybe bananas or guavas.

And lastly, but certainly not least-ly,
we’ve had (& are having) some visitors.
Matt and Shinobu came to visit the moonfarm,
and see that “yes, it is real” and in bloom,
and although nowhere near complete,
a promising project that’s made lots of progress.
Their visit was very inspirational and encouraging.
And Shinobu shared incredible ideas for uses for the bamboo,
as it’s plentiful and easily gathered here, and good for almost everything.
(I only wish I could extend my residency to share some more of what we make.
Or perhaps Shinobu should come have a residency here at the moonfarm,
and help with the experimentation. We want to build a pergola and a treehouse.)

And Mohamed’s brother and fiancé were visiting this weekend,
to spend some time here, barbecuing and exploring the beaches,
and taste-testing my beet chips and pickled beet humus.
(Ahmed is the prime foodie in Mohamed’s family.)
I’ve also made a kohlrabi-apple salad with a buttermilk dressing,
heavily infused with minced cilantro and spinach from our garden.
(& special thanks to the Sebastians for giving us one of their purple kohlrabis,
as our purple kohlrabis are a few weeks behind theirs
and won’t be ready until my mom’s visit next month.

Leave a Comment (2)

marisa wrote on Jun 2:

Thank you so much for visiting the moonfarm!

Almost everyone that visits says
"I'd love to see this place in five years"
Indeed, but please feel warmly invited to come back sooner!

co-director (m) wrote on May 25:

Those are some snackable looking beet chips. It's so great to see your pictures now with our new sense of moonfarm context. It was lovely to meet you all. Thanks so much for letting us parachute in on you and for being such great hosts.