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

the (soon-to-be) end of roadtripping

For our honeymoon, in the summer of 2012,
we went on a six week camping road-trip:
driving west from southern New Jersey,
camping at state and national parks
through the Appalachian Mountains,
the south coast of Lakes Erie and Michigan,
up through Pipestone, the Badlands, the Black Hills,
and Devil’s Tower, throughout Wyoming and Montana,
down through Utah and Colorado,
and back east again on a more southern route,
8,485 miles in all.

Unsure of our future plans,
we were thinking the whole time
that we may find a place we would want to call home.
But nowhere did we feel was right for us.
Some were truly magical, awe-inspiring places.
(Beartooth Pass, on the border of Wyoming and Montana,
stands out as a great example, as does Pike’s Peak in Colorado)
yet nowhere did we feel that we found our new home,
or a place we could call home, even temporarily.

{Where we met in Bahrain, international couplings are quite common.
And within Mohamed’s extended family, their frequency
throughout the past two generations has made family gatherings
a warm, cross-cultural experience.
(This week I began reading Mohamed’s Aunt Rashida’s inspiring autobiography
“My Journey Beyond Borders” about her life as the first Malaysian living in Bahrain.
Her honesty about raising a family while living away from her parents and culture
has resonated with my own isolating experience of raising Marmalade in Austria.)}

Four summers later, on our recent road-trip leaving Austria,
we really feel that we found the place we wanted to call home.
We had joked with friends before beginning the journey
that we were going to drive southwest until we reached the end of the continent,
traveling only one way, moving forward towards our destiny.
By the time we reached Rogil, we were ready to stop and settle.
But the land had been logged and our partners backed out,
and so we are moving a bit further along,
another half hour up the western coast.

Yet in Portugal we already feel more at ease,
and less obviously different than everyone else;
perhaps simply due to the less homogenous population here,
or more historically tied to Portugal’s past presence in Bahrain.


Mohamed & Marmalade practicing Capoeira on the beach, Zambujeira do Mar
Mohamed & Marmalade practicing Capoeira on the beach, Zambujeira do Mar

As far as our new home, we are slowly making progress.
Our offer has been accepted, the down payment paid,
and now awaiting bank transfers and paperwork to proceed.

We went back to see the house and asses the needed work on Thursday;
it is already beginning to feel more like home there.
In fact, Marmalade has been calling it “Marmaladey house”
since our first visit and asks when we can go back.
Mohamed’s mom seems to enjoy sitting in the living room,
visualizing the needed renovations on walls, floors, and the bathroom,
while Mohamed’s dad walked the property with the realtor,
assessing the landscape and the potential of the property’s 32 sq. meter ruin.

Eager to get to work and begin repairs and renovations, but enjoying a break,
both from roughing it while squatting and the construction work ahead,
to spend time with Mohamed’s parents and explore Zambujeira do Mar,
a really quaint seaside village with incredible beaches,
nice restaurants, and hiking trails up along the coast.

Marmalade exploring the beach at Zambujeira do Mar
Marmalade exploring the beach at Zambujeira do Mar

Only 8 kilometers from our soon-to-be home,
we were excited to see that it is so lovely here;
and once we get our bearings on the local roads,
we should find a relatively easy bike ride to the ocean.

Otherwise, I’ve been doing a lot of laundry,
taking advantage of the running water and electricity that modern living can provide.
Funny, it took about a day to get accustomed to going to the bathroom inside again,
stopping halfway out the backdoor while about to go outside to find some bushes.

Marmalade is enjoying all the attention and affection
that doting grandparents provide.
Which I thought would give me a break to refocus on art,
or future housing and gardening projects,
or something mentally-fulfilling or stimulating,
but other than seeing some pretty flowers I want to grow,
I’ve been in a lull creatively…
Just trying to catch up on sleep
and make sense of the paperwork ahead.

Leave a Comment (2)

co-director (m) wrote on Sep 23:

Marisa I love the way you are writing in stanzas.

co-director (s) wrote on Sep 22:

Yay, but it's always those papers that need to be pushed, isn't it? Super exciting though!