Man Isolates Himself for 30 Years to Create Magnificent Underworld
A mile deep in the wilderness of New Mexico, 70-year-old Ra Paulette is working alone on his ‘Magnum Opus’, an extraordinary livable artwork buried in the geology of a rare type of sandstone. Ra has been digging caves for 30 years, spending most of his time working in solitude, running only on passion, instinct and the company of his dog.
“Sometimes I feel more like an archeologist, uncovering something that is already there.”
Ra’s caves are extraordinary works of art, though he remains incredibly modest. A self proclaimed ‘digger of caves, and piler of rocks’, Ra has never been interested in what could be taught or learned, quitting school at a young age to explore everything through his perspective alone. He says that he ‘feels’ the spaces that he digs, working entirely on instinct and experience with the unique material that he seeks out for his projects.
The rare sandstone is unique to an area of New Mexico that was once the shoreline of an ancient sea. It is special cause very soft, yet very compressed. This makes it sturdy, yet soft enough that Ra can sculpt and carve the designs and architecture in a fraction of the time it would take with more common compositions.
When he first discovered the material, he was unsure of its safety and would wear a note to his possible rescuers around his neck while digging, speaking of his appreciation if they had to enter a collapsed cave to save him.
“Ra is not a typical person. He doesn’t do things for himself, he does things for art, things for other people”- Ra’s ex girlfriend.
Using only handtools, Ra dived into his projects and became obsessed in creating what he calls ‘Transformative Spaces’. The overwhelmingly beautiful architecture of his caves consists of archways and skylights that weave and meander, covered in incredible carvings.
“The fact that the spaces are underground and you can feel the earth around you, yet the sun pours in from the ceiling, those are the juxtapositions of the two metaphors of our lives, the within and the without. It’s a perceptual trick that brings out deep, expansive emotionality.”
Ra spent the bulk of his cave-digging career creating his inhabitable art for clients in the area, but after 25 years of working to the guidelines of others, he had enough. He set out to find the site to work on his final masterpiece, with no one to answer to but himself. On October 8, 2010, Ra began working on ‘Luminous Caves’, a work that he estimated to span across 10 years, and to take him to the end of his cave digging life.
In 2014, film maker Jeffrey Karoff released the academy award-winning short documentary ‘Cavedigger’, exploring Ra’s life and bringing these magnificent caves the international attention they deserved. We cannot wait to see the unrestricted brilliance of Ra’s work on the completion of Luminous Caves!
Check out the Film at www.cavediggerdocumentary.com
Learn more about Ra’s work at www.racavedigger.com