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 one

Before we ran out of Root time, I harvested a dozen onions,
which I’m now curing in the dried grass atop the Naturkeller.
And made another batch of roasted beet chips.

And finished washing and slicing all the rainbow carrots

and parsnips and red onions for the fermented salt pickles.

I began making these ten years ago, based on a recipe in “Nourishing Traditions,”
a book given to me by printmaker-turned-organic-farmer Barney Casey,
who also gave me a ton of organic root veggies to experiment with.
I owe her dearly and hope someday she’ll come visit.
(Though I actually began eating fermented pickles a few years prior,
stopping for ful sandwiches with torshé (literally translating to “soured”)
for breakfast each morning while working at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo.
I credit the probiotics in the pickles for keeping me healthy while living there.)

Otherwise, we’ve just been watering everything,
constantly, allowing the canal water system to run,
while spraying out the water, everywhere;
often from three or four different hoses at once,
to saturate the land, fill all the ponds we’ve dug,
and deeply water all the things we’ve planted.

And the pink-eyed peas I’d recently planted have been emerging,
as have the sunflowers I put into the flower garden last week.

And everything has been responding wonderfully to the water,
especially the wildflowers that are beginning to rebloom,

and all the flowers we’ve planted this Spring.

(& even the nasturtiums on Nutella’s grave)

And the strawberry popcorn has begun to show signs of flowering.

And thankfully, many plantings that were hit hard by the heat waves have recovered.

We spent awhile this week putting together the outdoor shower area,
which is now just a few driftwood floorboards short of being complete,
(& maybe a shower rack & a few hooks), but it’s now ready to use.

And we found a nice wide, slightly broken, plastic bucket by a dumpster,
which Mohamed dug and nestled into the ground to be our newest pond,

over by the circular planting of tomatillos and sunflowers (which are reblooming!)

While I’m walking through the yard checking on all the plants,
I often come across flowers (& fruits) that in my previous life,
I would sit outside and paint, still-life style,
fascinated with their glorious colors, intricate forms,
and the way the sunlight dances through the petals.

And aside from my commitment to not be making artwork this past year,
I don’t really have the time right now to dedicate hours and days to sitting and painting.

So I’ve been taking photos of what I would’ve painted.

I’m in near constant motion, as there are hoses to move and other things to water,
seeds to sow, and produce to pick (& wash & pickle or use in our meals),
and places that need weeding, and grasses that need trimming,
and whole new areas that need to be cleared for planting,
since we have an eggplant and two tomato seedlings ready for the garden,
and thirteen sweet corn seedlings that will go into the end of Horta Nova next week.

And we also have a few big construction projects to work on, too.
Marmalade wants a kitchen play area, like one she saw in a toy catalog.
Since her birthday is only a few weeks away, we agreed to work on it,
and have made it our mission to extend her playhouse to incorporate a kitchen.
Luckily, we recently found a few small wooden tables and panels that will work,
but everything needs refinishing and painting on some fun details.

Another upcoming construction project is an outhouse,
which will probably be a shelter for our dry composting toilet.
After moving in, we realized that we will have to redo our septic tank,
as it was just a lidded, sawed-off plastic barrel dug into the hillside,
and the pipe leading into it is rubbing up against a cork oak sapling,
(which is only going to get bigger!) pushing the pipe out of alignment.
So we need to clear out a whole lot of blackberries to dig a new place
for the septic tank and then move (or replace) the tank and redirect the piping to it.

Fortunately, composting toilets are fairly common here;
and so yesterday we toured our teacher’s house (& composting toilet)
to get ideas for both our outhouse and septic system projects.
And pick apples, as her ancient apple trees are already ripening,
and now have two sacks of apples to eat and transform into sauce.
Also, a friend of hers had recently backed their car into her prickly pear cactus,
knocking off a giant limb with several huge pads and unripe fruits,
so we brought that home as well to plant into our cactus garden
during next week’s Fruit transplanting time.

We also want to put in more planting areas,
extending the garden boxes with semi-circular garden rings
to re-integrate those hard, geometric, unnatural spaces back into our world.

And work on our house: inside and out.
Inside, we need to finish the living room floor
and the bathroom still needs to be completed,
(a slow and gradual process as we collect all the materials we need).
We have sourced the skylights we want for the bathroom roof,
and now need to contract a carpenter to frame a roof with a pitch
(so water will no longer pool on the roof) and add the two skylights.

And we want to add a bedroom for Marmalade,
as a small, sunny space off our room in the back of the house.
And we are now planning to add more exterior cork façade
over some of our worn and water-damaged exterior walls,
(especially the final bathroom wall, & 2 small kitchen walls)
because it really is an incredible material and made for this climate.

And finish painting the rest of the outside of the house,
which won’t seem quite so daunting once Marmalade is back in school.
I’ve sorta daydreamed about still-life painting some of the morning glories
onto our exterior bedroom walls, around our windows where they’ve been blooming.

Luckily life is long.

Leave a Comment (3)

marisa wrote on Jul 29:

Most of our gardening is playing the long-game
& indeed for the patient-hearted.
some of our trees won't begin yielding
fruits & nuts for over a decade,
so we're really hoping that life is long,
otherwise no one would ever plant a walnut.

co-director (s) wrote on Jul 23:

I have this urban/capitalist disease to constantly think life is short and yet, do not work any more than you guys. How ironic.

co-director (m) wrote on Jul 22:

Life is long and life is happening it looks like everywhere on the moon farm! The pickles look delicious!