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 life

Our yard is abuzz with activity,
and each day new life is emerging.
And lots more flowers blooming.

The rose we planted in early Spring has blossomed.

And a whole lot of new maracuja blossoms, too!

And our second pomegranate tree has bloomed!

The first sunflower has opened!

The tomatoes and tomatillos are flowering,

as is one of the watermelons.

We have one baby watermelon!

We also have bunches of “green-berries”:

loads of green blueberries on about half of the blueberry bushes

and a scattering of green raspberries on the two golden raspberries
and a few more on a couple of the red raspberry bushes.

And as promised, a ton of blossoms on the blue ballet winter squash vines,
though most are males, so they’re great for eating now,
(stuff each blossom with a spoon of fresh cheese, close & dip in beaten egg,
then roll in seasoned breadcrumbs & panfry in olive oil. Yum!)

but so far only one female, indicated by a mini-squash behind the blossom,
which has been growing larger, and is now the size of a golf ball.

So far all the three sisters plantings show great promise:

over two dozen strawberry popcorn seedlings have emerged,

and all but one of the Hokkaido squash and some of the beans.
Also, nine Käferbohnen have sprouted, and are now potted up.

And nine chickpeas have emerged, and are growing quickly and will soon by ready to transplant.

In other news, our solicitors finally heard back from the immigration office
of our next needed steps. We will be meeting again soon to learn of our fate.
We were a bit nervous, and went in yesterday to find out if it was good news or not:
our process has gotten easier, as apparently the laws have changed in our favor.
(Yet I’m still much happier in my isolated dreamworld where humans are just humans,
judged by our deeds and not our countries-of-origin, as all passports were not created equal.
And in my dreamworld we are all allowed to just live where we want to live,
no questions asked. Freedom, I guess.)

But all this bureaucratic paperwork seems like a distraction,
and instead we’ve been working to make this our dreamland anyway.
Hoping that whoever decides our fate can see our dedication,
that our hearts are here, setting up a home, and let us continue.
A positive decision on our fate would be such a relief.

And let us get back to the things that matter:
continuing to revamp our water system,
continuing to plant and transplant our garden,
continuing to repaint our house,
continuing to renovate our bathroom,
and constructing our outdoor kitchen area.
And work on our newest unfinished project: an outdoor shower.
Mohamed found wooden panels from an old quinta farmhouse,
so I’ve been varnishing enough pieces from a wardrobe and dining room set
to fasten together to construct the walls and a hinged door for a shower stall.
I still need to finish varnishing some driftwood planks for the floor,
so that our feet won’t get muddy while showering.

I recently had a dream about the fruit trees that we’ve planted on the hillside…
in the dream, we were working on setting up an irrigation system for them,
but kept being distracted by the need to work on other projects,
so had to keep doing the same things over and over,
like laying out hoses and such. (Our reality it isn’t much different,
as we are a few connectors short of having enough hoses to water the whole yard.)

So the next morning, I did some more research on growing citrus trees.
And then Mohamed and I walked around a bit on the hillside,
assessing what to do next, now that he has dug in a half barrel
so that we have a little pond down by the hazelnut tree
(partly as a reserve to conveniently water the nearby trees,
but mostly to positively affect the microclimate:
as more humidity keeps it from feeling desert-y,
for the hazelnut as well as the nearby peaches and apricots.)

So while walking we were talking about the trees and their neighbors,
especially that some trees grow better with similar trees nearby,
creating whole neighborhoods to spread the microclimate effect.

So we’ve mapped out the whole hillside, labeling all our trees,
in an effort to create routes for the different watering systems,
and ideal identifying spaces where other trees can be planted.
Though since we’re approaching summer,
only citrus trees can be transplanted now. Speaking of citrus,
I’ve been sprouting lemon seeds from organic lemons we’d purchased.
So far one lemon has emerged, with an inch long shoot and three leaflets.

Leave a Comment (2)

marisa wrote on Jun 2:

Thanks Lee for your kind words!
I've found, to sprout just about anything,
start with organic seeds,
so in this case, organic lemons
(but this works for beans, squash, peppers, etc.)
open the fruit to release the seeds when ripe,
on a Fruit day, soak overnight, at least twelve hours,
then put in a small flowerpot in a seed-starting soil,
with a sprinkling of sand in the bottom so the roots won't stick.
Water regularly and leave in a warm & sunny place.
Make sure to plant the seed before the end of the Fruit time.
For Fruit trees, it can take months...
so don't give up on them too soon.

Good luck!

Lee wrote on May 30:

Good luck with your immigration, you certainly have shown dedication to creating a beautiful space, I hope that counts!
How have you been sprouting your lemon seeds? I've tried a couple times but can't seem to get them to come up!