Artist Ra Paulette's "Luminous Caves" Project Took 10 Years, and It Was Well Worth The Wait

With just his wheelbarrow, his tools, and his dog for companionship, artist Ra Paulette spent 10 years on a project called "Luminous Caves," and the result was his "final and most ambitious" work to date. He dug out and carved naturally illuminated rooms with intricately designed walls into caves in New Mexico, and it's marvelous.

My favorite works of art are the ones that I can interact with: the pieces that I can touch, feel and — if I'm lucky — walk through and become a part of. And that's exactly the experience Paulette hopes to create with Luminous Caves. On his website Paulette describes the work as “both an environmental and social art project that uses solitude and the beauty of the natural world to create an experience that fosters spiritual renewal and personal well being.”

The social issues that Paulette hopes to address with Luminous Caves are those of the landscape and rural communities of the West, and particularly New Mexico. According to Paulette, while communities in the West are usually "warm-hearted, family-oriented people from unique cultural traditions" they are also "at times plagued by crime, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, poor school performance, teen pregnancy and suicide rates near or at the top of the national surveys."

Paulette believes the cultural conflicts in areas such as New Mexico between "Hispanic native New Mexicans, Native Americans, and Anglo Americans" has been aggravated by both the arrival of Mexican immigrants and wealthy newcomers that drive "local population onto ever smaller plots of subdivided family properties." According to Paulette, spaces like "Luminous Caves" can help kickstart the change to address those issues.

From Paulette's website:

The cave is both a shared ecumenical shrine and an otherworldly venue for presentations and performances designed to address issues of social welfare and the art of well being.

The exact location of Paulette's Luminous Caves is unclear, but if you find yourself stumbling upon some beautifully carved cave walls in New Mexico, consider yourself lucky.

The documentary "Cavedigger," directed by Jeffrey Karoff, explores Paulette's work and his relationship with his commissioners.

Images: Screengrab/Cavedigger Trailer