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New Mexico artist left society and spent 25 years carving a giant cave

Ian Harvey

When people think of caves they think of dank, dark cavernous holes. There is nothing glamorous or beautiful about them. But one cave is different.

A sculptor from northern New Mexico named Ra Paulette, decided to make something beautiful in caves. He uses nothing but hand tools such as shovels, pick axes, and scrapers to create beautiful designs and shapes inside of cave walls. Some of the cave art he has worked on have taken him years to sculpt and create. Since he doesn’t use any power tools whatsoever, he relies only on his hands and the tools he brings with him. Although it is a slower process, viewers can tell that that the finished product is more intricate and far more detailed than any power tool could make.

Paulette has been doing this for over 25 years.  He creates things such as hillside images inside the cave walls. What is even more amazing is that he never had formal training in sculpting, structural engineering, or architecture. He made this art with just his experience and talent.

Paulette described his talent as having a lot to do with “juxtaposition of opposites”. He said that working on the caves gives him a more intimate feeling. All he relies on is the light in the caves and what nature has given him. He added that some of the columns in those caves are very large, measuring about 30 to 40 feet high.

Paulette is almost 70-years old and believes that he should not be considered an artist. He explained that he is a man who wants to express his sense of wonder through this particular passion.

Sculpture entitled Tree Cave by Paulette.

Sculpture entitled Tree Cave by Paulette.Source

Some of the caves he has worked on allowed him to make money, however, he may only make $12 an hour for the hard work and time he put into his project. He doesn’t expect money for being passionate about his artwork, but instead he does it to pass the time and share his work with others who visit the caves.

Paulette has created a cave in New Mexico and calls it the Windows in the Earth Shrine. This particular cave was made for a resort in Santa Fe, in order for the hotel’s guests to climb a mile and enjoy the views of the caves. It took nearly two years to complete and was nominated for an award.

He said that changing the world is something people should be trying to do. Art, especially, doesn’t force the change, but serves as a catalyst for it by allowing people to experience emotion. CBS television asked Paulette if he would consider himself obsessive when it comes to creating the insides of these caves. Paulette explained that if someone knows what they are passionate about, they should do it. Passion and obsession are complete opposites, according to him.

Overall, Paulette has dug about 12 caves. Many of those caves have been commissioned by people who want to say that they have a piece of “livable art.”

The one he is currently working on right now is the largest cave he has ever attempted. He explained that he has taken everything he has learned over the last few years from his other caves and is putting that skill to the test while making this cave. He calls the cave his magnum opus. As if taking a few years to carve the cave isn’t enough, he plans to paint the designs after all is said and done. Painting the caves is something new for him, but he hopes to make it a “healing retreat.” He said he plans on completing it with a waterfall and a pool.

Paulette doesn’t get paid for his work unless someone has hired him to make a cave for their business. Mostly he does it for the thrill and pleasure. He has nothing better to do, so he and his dog find the caves and create wonderful art that will be there for centuries to come. No one has ever attempted something like this before, and it seems he should be recognized for all of the hard work he puts into the cave sculptures.