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

meeting our neighbors

(or becoming one with our neighborhood)

this Saturday has been an unreal adventure…

Jorge, a man who commonly passes by, finally stopped to share some wisdom.
A few days ago Mohamed had given him some dates
from the stash we have from his grandfather’s trees
(growing in his parents’ front yard & kindly brought over for us)
when he passed him on his way back from unclogging the water source.
Jorge is from Angola, been here a long time, speaks slow and clear Portuguese,
and shared a lot of information about the nearby neighborhoods,
and the services they provide, especially to newcomers and families.
He actually gave us some hats and a few toys for Marmalade.
He also gave Mohamed a contact for professional diving work in Sines,
a nearby port town, actually the westernmost port for mainland Europe.
So hopefully this leads to a good path for Mohamed to follow.

Secondly, right after sunset, and when sitting down to eat homemade pizza,
the phone rang. It was a lady returning our message inquiring about a used car:
the nicest, most affordable car that we found for sale in our region.
Mohamed was nervous about answering, being both tired and anxious,
as talking on the telephone is usually taking a Portuguese pop quiz.
Except this lady is from Morocco, so they could converse comfortably in Arabic.
And they live in Zambujeira do Mar, and have a son, Said, who is Marmalade’s age.
She offered to sell us the car, help us to do all the car’s paperwork,
and even assist with getting Marmalade registered into school with Said.
It is a miracle!

After all of our remaining confusions and stresses
about procedures, paperwork, and legalities,
we were offered assistance and guidance today.

The morning had a Leaf Trine, during the Fruit time,
which led to a warm day with lots of clouds and passing showers.
The mushrooms have responded favorably to the change in the weather.
We found a cluster of parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera)
at the edge of the path leading into Bamboo Parque,
and a meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris),

the wild cousin of the white supermarket mushroom,
growing in our backyard. Marmalade picked them both,
having an incredibly fun time playing with the parasol.

(I am currently doing a spore print to confirm,
but we are really excited to find parasols,
one of our favorite edibles, that we were missing from Austria.)

Also, an astounding discovery:
some of the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) mycelium I had moved over
have survived and have produced primordia, the predecessor to mushrooms.
The spawn was mixed with pasteurized recycled carton and wood debris,
and packed into washed half liter milk containers and resealed before moving.
The scorching heat throughout our road-trip, especially in Spain,
took a toll on some of the mushroom samples we brought,
but these seem to have not only survived,
but acclimatized and are doing well.

Nearby to our mushroom patch,
we befriended a praying mantis,
a quite large green one with a strange habit
of climbing up to the top of a wildflower stalk
until it bends over from its weight,
leaving the mantis hanging upside down.
It happened twice in a row.

I want to mention that I love mantis.
I find them strange and peculiar,
thoughtful and knowing.
I had seen a few at my mom’s house when I was younger,
but then none for years, until this Spring,
when we found a huge one in Mohamed’s parents’ backyard.
I was taking video, and as I crouched down to get a closer look,
it jumped into my hair, apparently to get a closer look as well.

We’ve seen a few more mantis here, smaller ones mostly,
that seem to enjoy sunning themselves on the solar panel in the mornings.

Also peculiar, at least at first,
was a very slow going reddish caterpillar
(or as Marmalade says “calapitter”)
that was on umbrella fabric on our porch.
I thought perhaps it was camera-shy,
because it became very inactive.


Later, when Mohamed pulled the umbrella to cover our camp stove,
we found it was inside a fold, and had made a cocoon for itself there.
Mohamed was concerned since he had slightly ruptured the cocoon
and the caterpillar had half-emerged when he had moved it.
Fortunately, when checking in later,
the cocoon had been reinforced
with the caterpillar safely tucked inside.

(In retrospect, I should have suspected that it was going into metamorphosis.
In researching to try to identify a giant red & purple caterpillar this Spring,
I had read that many caterpillars turn red when they are ready to transform.)

Our giant spider is still in the same place in the tall grass,
rebuilding its web every few days, and getting noticeably larger.

still hanging in there!
still hanging in there!

Mohamed found another large spider, with a similar web design,
further up the path towards the house.

This one is golden in color, much wider, almost crab-like.

Oh, and we have moles!
We haven’t seen them yet,
but we see new evidence of their own home improvements:
molehills and tunnel mounds, especially after each rainfall.
They are incredibly beneficial to the soil,
especially for the trees and other large plants,
as they create channels for both water and roots
to penetrate within this hard-packed rocky soil.

Nutella & some of the molehills
Nutella & some of the molehills

And dragonflies! Lots of them!
Some are smaller and graceful, stunning really.

one of our graceful dragonflies drying off the morning dew
one of our graceful dragonflies drying off the morning dew

And some are really huge, like remote-control toy helicopters buzzing around.
They fly much like bats, which isn’t too surprising
since they’re both out there cruising the skies for insects.
I’ve hoped to capture them on videos so that I could post them;
but they fly fast and at dusk, dawn, and twilight respectively,
so not easily photographed with our limited technology.
But hopefully sometime soon.

Leave a Comment (1)

co-director (m) wrote on Nov 10:

So many lovely new neighbours!