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

moonfarmers’ first residents

As hoped for, we had friends come to stay and help eats plums,
each eating at least their two dozen quota of plums per day.
And since they are both sustainable farming researchers,
their assistance far surpassed plums:

they’ve devised a low-tech gravity pump to access water from our well,
designed a low-cost, low-tech solar hot water system on our bedroom roof,
and brainstormed a dam system for the inlet of our canal water system.
Nadine also planned and set-up an innovative composting dry toilet,
in which the waste is easily composted and returned to the soil,
ideally used for planting fruit trees on top of our hillside.

Felipe also offered suggestions to improve our composting process
(flipping more often, moister & with smaller pieces)
and while investigating our current compost piles,
discovered that several of the composted date pits,
from Mohamed’s grandfather’s trees, had sprouted,
so we transplanted those into containers.

While they’ve been brainstorming and testing out their ideas,
I’ve been in the kitchen, making two kinds of plum sauce and plum chutney,
and working a lot in the garden, mostly sowing seeds: catnip for Tuna,
more bi-color sweet corn, more pink-eyed peas and purple bush beans in the garden,
and scattering the crushed pods of our arugula hybrid as a “mulch” under the tomatoes.
And harvesting: all the remaining plums, lots of carrots, bush beans, tomatoes;
and lots of onions and handfuls of orange basil, lamb’s quarters, purslane, and sorrel,
which sautéed together made a tasty, citrusy topping for pasta.

I’ve also been harvesting more of the lemon cucumbers,
which are very mild and sweet, and slightly fruity,
lacking the compounds that make cucumbers difficult to digest,
and their fun, lemon-size makes them easy to add to salads.

During the recent Fruit/Seed transplanting times,
we got the nine remaining Käferbohnen into Horta Nova,
and transplanted one Napolitana fig into the hillside,
and two others into large flowerpots by the porch.

All the sweet corn and melon seeds from last Fruit time have sprouted,
and are receiving the TLC treatment until their spaces are ready in the old compost bin.
On the other side of the old bin, the loofah squash are doing great,
and have a few small looflets on their vines.

And finally an eggplant seed sprouted!
I think our nights might have been too cool until recently for germination.
Fortunately, we have a really long growing season.

Now that the plums have all been picked and either sauced or eaten,
our digestive systems are returning to normal again,
so we’re planning which other fruits we want in abundance:
figs, obviously, since we just got three more trees,
and a few more peaches and maybe a nectarine,
and apricots, since we just saved twelve organic pits,
and maracuja, since we scooped and saved dozens of their seeds,
though I’ll need to research how to sprout them.

Our seedling lemon and nespera (loquats) trees are nestled in the cold frame,
coming along nicely and slowly with several leaves of healthy growth.
During the end of July, there is a recommended time to plant fruit seeds,
so all these saved pots and seeds will await sowing until then.

Today is Marmalade’s last day of school until Fall,
and our first residents’ last day of their first residency;
so, as usual, we have a busy day planned ahead,
also, as usual, ending with an afternoon trip to the beach.

Last night swung from Fruit into Root time, so dinner was quite rooted:
Einkorn (an ancient wheat) rice with garden carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic and dill.

Since it is still a Root day today,
I just planted the remaining sweet potato sprouts into the garden.
And will be harvesting more onion flowers to make more infused sesame oil.
And plan to make more beet chips for a midday snack.

With moonfarmers we always hoped to host an artist residency
using the term “artist” broad enough to include
all sorts of designers, scientists, and other creatives
that want to further the mission of a sustainable future.
And eventually build some treehouses.

Right now residents are hosted in a spacious tent,
with most meal provided fresh from the garden.
Anybody else interested in joining the moonfarm,
please just let us know.

Leave a Comment (4)

marisa wrote on Jul 18:

So if you can save a few pits from some nice plums, dry them out & bring them over,
I'm totally game to try to grow these special plums here!
My first trials of lemon trees & nespera (loquats) have been going nicely,
with two healthy seedlings for each.
& I'm super excited to increase the diversity of life growing here.

co-director (s) wrote on Jul 16:

The ones for umeboshi are rather different kind of plum (not sweet at all and we can never eat them raw) but maybe you could grow one at moonfarm?? It's good for so many things - we even eat the inside of the pits for the longevity so we are told (:

marisa wrote on Jul 8:

I can't wait for your residency here...
perhaps during the next plum season so I can learn how to make Ume-boshi.
And to play with all the bamboo that's laying around.

co-director (s) wrote on Jul 3:

That's so cool Marisa, that moonfarm already had the first residents! I wish I could come and exchange our "making" but "not artmaking" tips! I'm sure we'll have lots of those and have a blast (: