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

revival: part IV


Yesterday we had the Sebastians over for playing and lunch:
with garden salad (using our red leaf lettuce, red amaranth leaves & lots of purslane),
homemade pizza, and homemade cheesecake with the garden plum sauce.
And a watermelon from one of the plants the Sebastians had given us.

They hadn’t been over in a few months and were curious as to our progress;
which continues to be slow yet steady. It’s really nice to have friends nearby.

They were most impressed by the plantings in the old compost bin,
the sweet corn is now surpassing the wooden structure,
everything is vibrant and lush, and the melon plants are gigantic.

Afterwards, it flipped over to Flower time.

And next to the tomatillo, the sesame and quinoa seeds have sprouted!

I got up early this morning to plant more calendula and sunflower seeds.

And transplant four more lupine seedlings into the flower garden,
and the tarragon into the garden, and a few of our houseplants.

And we dismantled the cold frame to clear a place for the rosemary
to enter the earth, with some purslane to keep it company.

The morning glories are spiraling around the bamboo fence,
bringing a once-neglected part of our yard to life.

It’s also amazing how our roses have revived:
three opened blooms and two more buds forming.

For this last installment of the revival entries,
I wanted to talk about the lesson I’ve learned:
don’t give up, on anything.

Seeds that didn’t at first sprout grew some of the best plants once given a second chance,
trees that at first seemed dead have branched out new shoots and leaves and fruits,
the artichokes and tomatillos and everything else have made such a comeback,
with a little food and water, and lots of tender loving care.

So maybe that’s the key…


A year ago, we were stuffed into a car and trailer,
heading southwest on a long and arduous journey,
to an unknown destination and an unknown future.

So much has happened,
all teaching me that there is no limit
to how much can grow,
how much can be learned,
and how much love we can share.

Marmalade continues to astound me,
with her abilities to adapt to our new situation,
and her comprehension of new languages and cultures,
and her unending creativity;
she has been home from kindergarten for a month now,
back to being our youngest artist-in-residence,
resuming her full-time status while her school is on summer holiday.
And her energy and output are unsurpassed!

She has resumed her self-portrait series on my iPad,

and begun a new new series of mixed media drawings,

and has been working intently on a collection of collaborations with the moonfarmers.

Our parents have shown continued support for our less-than-traditional lifestyle,
perhaps silently wondering why we chose to live as moonfarmers,
but outwardly offering suggestions and help to make this reality.

Thank you.

And we’ve been so happy to be on Hiatus,
sharing our adventures and being a part of this community.
I feel I could easily extend for another year, or two,
as my priorities are to work on transforming this place,
(creating the here and now & planting for the future)
instead of re-entering the rat-race of the contemporary art world.

But mostly, I enjoy life here, and the light here,
the way the sunset affects the colors of the blooms;
the incredible smells of the freshly watered garden,
and the raspberry-scented roses that are again in bloom.
And the noises of night, glowing under the moonlight.

I hope that our next year brings about the renovation of the ruin,
as a collaboration with the eco-architects,
since I want to retain the original taipa earthen walls
and embed colored glass bottles into the walls to enliven the space,
as a magical get-away for artists, scientists, and other creatives
who need to stop and smell the roses.

Don’t give up, on anything, and anyone.

Life might just surprise you.

Leave a Comment (3)

mathieu wrote on Jul 31:

thank you for the reports and for the gorgeous photographs, your adventure is very inspiring!

co-director (s) wrote on Jul 31:

I'm all choked up... July 31 happened to be my birthday too; what a last day! Thank you to you all!!

co-director (m) wrote on Jul 31:

Thank you so much for your generous contribution to this project Marisa - and everyone (we know it's a team effort!) We have also learned so much vicariously from this project. Its been truly inspirational! We look forward to any and all future news from the moonfarm! Never give up indeed!