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

resurrection: part two


Some of the companion planting trials have really worked well,
especially the loofah, nasturtium, and and tomatillo all growing together,
encircled by dill that had sprouted up from the compost pile.
(I had read that nasturtiums were companion plantings for squashes;
the tomatillo seed was from an unsprouted sowing in a small flowerpot,
the contents of which I had scattered around the loofah when transplanting.)

And the ring of tomatillos around dwarf sunflowers, with amaranth and popcorn,
have finally soaked in ample water and seaweed fertilizer, and are growing vividly lush.

And Horta Nova continues to impress; with waist-high corn and finger-long bean pods.

And then, in the containers on the patio:
the accidental bush beans, tomatoes, and dill combo
has encouraged the largest of each of these plants in the whole garden;
while the violet bush beans and wild thyme both seem contently growing vibrantly.
And the morning glories are happily climbing up the sunflowers in their planter.

And the arugula re-seeded into the garden boxes
has provided needed shade (& a tasty green for our sandwiches)
for the base of the tomatoes, sunflowers, and chickpeas.

And the calendula around the tomatoes are finally in full bloom!

Each of these companions seem happy sharing their spaces, and nutrients.

During the Flower time, I tucked some tarragon seeds into the garden,
a planting amidst the tomatoes and another next to the broccoli,
wondering if either will benefit from their new neighbors.
I often wonder which plants will be beneficial friends,
(& it’s been hard to find comprehensive lists of companion plantings)
but feel that since something will be growing there anyway,
as we have abundant “weeds” we might as well try to grow things that we like.

In that vain, during Leaf time, I hulled and scattered the seeds from a local green
to encourage more edibles in the empty spaces in the last garden box.

And it’s amazing just how dramatically our land has revived with regular waterings;
a few more seasons of tender loving treatment and I’m sure it’ll be really special.

And to help them along, we finally assembled an irrigation hose system for the citrus:
ten old lengths of hose joined together along from the blood orange down to the lemon,
and then punctured twice around each tree’s base to allow a stream of water to bubble out.
And after months of gathering replaced hoses and finding connectors,
all of a sudden it works! Well! Really well!

During the long Leaf time, I started more seeds indoors:
for red cabbages, savoy cabbages, radicchio and escarole.
If all goes well, they’ll be transplantable next month
into the spaces made vacant in the last garden box
where I’ve harvested potatoes, beets and carrots.

And the kale and kohlrabi in the garden have really taken off!

Once we flipped into Fruit time,
I also started seeds for more cucumbers into pots,
having recently read that they’re fine to plant in mid-July
in regions with an extended growing season.

And I scattered more calabacita and pattypan squash seeds into the ground, too.

And speaking of seeds,
seed hulling, sorting, and saving has been a long, yet rewarding process.
I’m all finished with the radish seeds on the past Root days;
and done with the arugula seeds, which I now have a whole jar of,
and have been now working on the kale seeds on Leaf days;
and in the midst of hulling a million mustard seeds on Fruit days.


Fortunately, the sunflower seeds just need to be pried out of their dried heads,
collecting enough of each kind for next Spring’s planting
(during Flower time for the ornamentals & Fruit time for the edible seed varieties);
and gathering some extra to snack on while we’re hanging out,
while leaving the rest for all the birds, as nature’s easiest bird feeder!

(Actually, they are nature’s largest bee feeders, too.
I’ve been humbled by how these plants provide so much for so many.
Like with our plum trees, before feeding us, & the birds & ants & wasps & flies,
their blossoms fed the bees for two long weeks before most wildflowers were waking up.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve really become excited about growing seeds,
and the saving of seeds, and, of course, having them all be organic seeds;
which farmers have done since time unmemorable,
(& has recently become an issue of contention:
as corporate jerks are trying to steal indigenous seeds & then patent them,
so that those original seed-handlers are now unable to grow their own seeds:
such as heirloom tomatoes in Mexico & just about any seeds in India.
It’s not like I’m engaging in war with Monsanto,
or the seed companies available here in Portugal
that sell all their seeds coated in a toxic fungicide;
but I do prefer to do things the natural way,
& want to share seeds with others to encourage natural gardening.)
And increase biodiversity, and spread the variations of life.

My favorite morning glory plant this summer grew from our own seeds,
originally grown years ago in Marmalade’s bedroom in Austria,
and now sown in cork planters outside our bedroom windows.
For some magical reason, this plant produces flared morning glories,
that have split petals rather resemble other flowers and butterfly wings.

Before we departed Fruit time, I wanted to mention that
we have the first half dozen hokkaido squash in Horta Nova,
and probably that many maracujas on the vine by the chimney.

And the echinacea have fully opened, 
though it’s hard to get a clear photo with all the butterfly traffic on them.

And the waterlily has begun blooming again!

And then today it flipped into Root time, which means harvest time:
bunches of beets, red and yellow onions, and rainbow carrots and parsnips

(although half were eaten by my little garden helper before I could document…
& thank goodness she enjoys eating veggies straight from the garden!)

I’ve already made two jars of fermented beet pickles,
(& two jars of unripe-pear chutney from a limb that snapped off the “wild” pear tree)
and will ferment the rest of the root veggies tomorrow.

It’s really wonderful having such bounty growing from our land.

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