Ra Paulette has mastered the art of doing what he loves. For 25 years, the artist has spent most of his time hollowing out Northern New Mexico's sandstone hills, carefully sculpting them into beautiful man-made caves. Charging just $12 per hour, Paulette builds these "wilderness shrines" purely for the love of the craft and with hope that uncovering these untapped treasures will bring people closer to nature. Check out the video below to watch this inspiring artist transform hidden passageways into incredible, habitable works of art.
Paulette has carved out 12 caves to date, each of which has been commissioned by local New Mexican residents. He only accepts $12 per hour for his detailed labor, and has no qualms about it. In this CBS Sunday Morning interview he says, “I see this as an environmental project. I’m trying to open up people’s feelings…It’s the process. I’m having the time of my life.”
With only a pickaxe in hand and his dog for company, Paulette meticulously digs through sandstone, etching intricate designs from scratch. Holding no professional degree in sculpting, the artist successfully achieves what he calls “the cave effect,” juxtaposing the underground with expansive columns that simulate trees and light-filled skylights peering up to the sky.
The cave-digger’s majestic underground dwellings had gone somewhat unnoticed over the years, until a 2014 documentary film called Cavedigger hit the airwaves and even received an Academy Award nomination.
One of Paulette’s 12 caves took 12 years to dig and included full power, wood flooring, and running water. He is currently in the process of completing his “magna opus,” which will be an underground community refuge for the public to enjoy, replete with a running waterfall.
Images via YouTube Screenshots/CBS Sunday Morning