Somewhere in the high desert of northern New Mexico are secluded caves that have been intricately carved by self-taught American artist Ra Paulette. No two caves have the same design, with each one having its own unique pattern.
With only a dog as his companion and with no formal training in sculpture or the arts, the passionate Ra Paulette has spent more than 25 years in the desert, working with tools such as shovels, pickaxes, scrapers, and a wheelbarrow.
He has dedicated over a quarter-century of his life scraping and shaping magnificent sculptures, digging into hillsides, and creating elaborate artistic spaces inside mountains, making use of New Mexico’s numerous sandstones.
Ra Paulette is an American artist who has spent years in the high desert of New Mexico carving out amazing cave homes. He works solely with the company of his dog.
Paulette first began turning sandstone hills into magnificent man-made caves of art when he was commissioned to make what he named as Windows in the Earth Shrine for a Santa Fe Resort in New Mexico.
It took him two years to finish, and it’s said that it can be used for wedding ceremonies, prayer, meditation, or anything for that matter. After finishing his sandstone masterpiece, he began making more.
— Aeon (@aeonmag) August 6, 2014
Paulette’s caves are works of art, each being different from the other.
His decorative touches include scalloped walls, smooth edges with intricate swirls, molded curves, and sometimes inlaid stones.
In some of the caves, he has made carved niches where one can place a candle. Inside another cave, he has made a skylight so the sun’s rays can creep through.
Paulette is neither an architect nor a trained sculptor. What drove him to carve out these otherworldly sandstone caves was his passion.
While being interviewed in 2014, Paulette told CBS News: “You know, when you’re doing something you love and are drawn to it, you want to do it all the time.”
Speaking of his artistic approach, he shared: “It has a lot to do with the juxtaposition of opposites: the sense of being underground with the light streaming in; the intimacy of being in a cave, yet the columns end up very large, sometimes thirty to forty feet high.”
— CBS Sunday Morning 🌞 (@CBSSunday) May 18, 2014
Whilst some people have had the privilege to go on a cave tour to see Paulette’s works of art, others have also been inspired by seeing photos of his works on Facebook.
“We need more of your beautiful art on this little planet of ours,” wrote one Facebook user, Marlene Collins. “Being native I am just blown away by the detail and the closeness you have with nature and the earth itself…absolutely epic.”
“I have been in two of Ra Paulette creations and they are truly magnificent. I am honored…,” wrote another user, Linda Fischer.
He became well known in 2014 when an Oscar-nominated documentary, Cave Digger, was filmed to highlight his works and life.
Paulette does not create these amazing works of art to earn money but considers it as a hobby, a public service to the people, and a dedication to art so that more people can experience the state of “spiritual renewal and personal well being” while in the caves.
He said: “I see this as an environmental project. I was trying to open up people’s feelings.”
Paulette hopes visitors are able to find a sense of peace and purpose in his light-filled sandstone art caves.
“At least a moment, or a length of time in which they had a deeper feeling and deeper understanding of themselves, and life,” he said.
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