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

“when it rains, it pours” (or “the shit-hole that is our life”)

So, coming back to Rogil has been an unforgettable,
wish-we-could-forget-it kind of experience.
We arrived late Tuesday evening,
around sunset, from Zambujeira do Mar.
Happy to be back, excited to see our lovely neighbors again.
Even enjoying Alvin, our almost-adopted dog, coming around,
sleeping outside our tent as usual.

In the morning Mohamed mentioned how he liked it here,
wished we could stay here longer and
actually open the property as an eco-golf course.
Not much time passed before two GNR police cars roll up,
and three young police officers jump out,
their sunglasses shining in the morning glare.
They ask for documentation and search the place.
We give our passports and visas, and ask what’s what.
The owner of the property had called them about people
illegally occupying their land (a common charge here apparently).
We mentioned that we received permission from the realtor,
showing them the realtor’s email, and soon Mohamed was seemingly arrested.
I questioned the English-speaking officer about why? where? how long? etc.
Not sure, but questioning and investigation, then charges; Odeceixe;
for a few hours, and maybe court today, which would take longer, or tomorrow.

Mohamed returned home several hours later, after a little questioning,
lots of paperwork, and charges of illegal habitation,
a scenic 11 km walk back in the afternoon heat,
with a court appearance in Lagos the next morning.
After waiting to speak to the public defender,
and again showing the realtor’s email,
the charges were dismissed.
He must return to Lagos in 2 weeks to verify that no fines are due,
which we heard we may be able to convert to community service,
which seems much better than paying fines into the system.

(Overall, we are grateful that law enforcement here is unlike America:
no handcuffs, no booking, no fingerprinting, no mug shot,
no overnight stays in jail until a court hearing, no bail,
no “right to remain silent” as they weren’t making accusations,
but actively investigating, trying to find the answers;
all we wish is that they would’ve just called the realtor.
Apparently the realtor NEVER mentioned to the owner
that he gave us permission to camp there.
If so, none of this would’ve happened.)

So Mohamed came back, and we head north to Odemira to renew our visas.
The nice lady at the municipal office won’t bother with our Austrian visas,
and informs that as non-EU citizens, we need to go to an office in Beja,
but we have 3 months from entry to do so. Phew.
Also, our realtor, who came along to help translate,
found out that although he is from the Netherlands,
he also needs to go to Beja since his visa has expired too long ago.
We agree to all go together after our house closing and such.

Yet on the way to Odemira, more insanity ensued:
we got a call from the police station in Odeceixe,
asking if we had vacated the property yet.
Of course the police officer who called us didn’t speak English,
so we settled on our mutual rusty Spanish skills,
(Gracias a Señor Virus por 7 años de Español,
but that was 20 años ago!)
in which I explained that we weren’t there,
that we were in Odemira,
but our stuff still was.
He asked “?Por qué?”
I explained that my husband was in Lagos at the Palácio da Justiça all day,
with our car, so how was I supposed to move all our things by myself,
while watching and caring for my daughter, a toddler?
I explained that we’d be moving to the nearby farm,
as the neighboring farmer is an incredibly decent human being, Tío Vovaldi,
(the same man who had given us the produce, and sugar cane, and today a melon)
who spent that afternoon clearing a space for us to camp out and store our things.
The police officer told us we had 2 hours to clear all our things.
I re-explained that we were in Odemira,
that it would take us an hour just to return,
so 4 hours we received, which put our deadline after sundown,
but less time than it actually took,
but we moved most of our things by 10 that night,
(including the trailer that Cornelius helped us get out of the sand)
and finished before sunup;
and even refrained from giving the middle-finger salute
to the lady who called the police on the owner’s behalf,
though I won’t pretend that I wish her well.

So the next morning Mohamed mentioned
that I should document our new surroundings;
I looked around and then at him and said
“you mean the shithole that is our life?”
“yeah,” as it is one of those things we’d laugh about later,
at least we hope we can laugh about it later.

"the shithole that is our life" camping out at Tío's, near his fragrant pigpen
“the shithole that is our life”
camping out at Tío’s,
near his fragrant pigpen, with the ruin we used to use in the background past the batata doce field
"the shithole that is our life" all our stuff piled up while camping out at Tío's
“the shithole that is our life”
all our stuff piled up while camping out at Tío’s

We camped out in the nearby woods for a couple more nights,
but decided that with that lady staring us down daily,
and tenants moving in at the rental house at Tío Vovaldi’s,
we decided to move along again.

Our realtor offered up a property he owns:
33 hectares of unspoiled forest and rolling hills in São Luis,
(originally planned to become a wellness retreat,
before the Dutch dancer/yoga teacher left him for another man).
But as it was an hour north of Rogil and a half hour past our hopefully home,
and had no water source or electricity, we politely declined,
deciding to stay somewhere closer.

So after some debate,
we decided to camp out on our new land.
We wanted to see it throughout the day,
to observe the path of the sun and shadows,
figuring out where to put the gardens, terraces and greenhouses.
And also to hike throughout the entire property,
as most of the 1.17 hectares is forested
and we were unsure what was growing there,
and really, which part of the tree-filled hillside
was actually becoming ours to tend.

But mostly, the reason was exhaustion:
tired of moving, tired of being on someone else’s property,
tired of waiting to walk the land, and water the plants,
and look after the bit of world that would become ours.
So here we are:

temporary storage tent for some of our things, in the front yard of our (hopefully) soon-to-be home
temporary storage tent for some of our things,
in the front yard of our (hopefully) soon-to-be home
Marmalade playing in our hopefully soon-to-be front yard, with our hopefully soon-to-be house in the background, Malavado, Portugal
Marmalade playing in our hopefully soon-to-be front yard, with our hopefully soon-to-be house in the background, Malavado, Portugal

In a week the paperwork should be completed,
the money transfer received and divided,
for the four German owners flying in to sign over their land.

P.S. an explanation of the title of the post:
“when it rains, it pours” is the title of one of my favorite songs,
by my favorite band, Twiddle, an incredibly talented group from Vermont.
The lines that were looping in my head for most of the move:

“the problems don’t go away,
they keep piling on your plate,
you just want to escape,
you need to re-awake, now,
listen to the words I’m singing in this line
and, your life will be just fine,
and, troubles do not stay, they
get replaced with good times,
now you got a green light,
smile as you walk by,
thinking about the day…”

Leave a Comment (2)

co-director (s) wrote on Oct 13:

I'm finally reading this as I'd been away attending a press-preview and reception of an "international contemporary art summit" -- with speeches, a superstar artist/curator, presses, champagnes and fancy buffet etc. Lots of works looked like your “the shithole that is our life” and I'm convinced that the titles were similar to that. Hope you all are fine; you guys are the true stars to us.

co-director (m) wrote on Oct 7:

Holy, what an adventure! We're relieved that Mohamed wasn't detained longer and that good things remain on the horizon. Fingers crossed your paper work can be sorted soon.