Summary: Ra Paulette is a sculptor who has been digging massive, ornately carved, sandstone caves in New Mexico, USA, for over 25 years. He calls them "wilderness shrines", massive in scale, poetic in design. He uses only hand tools like shovels, pick axes and scrapers.
A documentary film maker followed Ra for 3 years as he dug and made the Oscar nominated Cave Digger (39 mins, 2013) — available here. Ra's philosophy is heartwarming (see excerpts from the documentary below).
Interviewer: "Would you say that you are obsessed?"
Ra: "Would you call a child being obsessed with play? You wouldn't use that word - obsessed. You know, when you're doing something that you love and are drawn to it, you wanna do it all the time!"
Ra: "I see this as an environmental project. I'm trying to open up people's feelings."
Ra: "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."
Ra: "Most of the wonder I feel is in the actual making of the cave. Once they are made, I move on (with a chuckle) if I want fresh wonder"
Interviewer: "Does it ever get lonely out here? Doing all this work?"
Ra: "I'm never lonely"
Interviewer: "If there is one simple thing that you wanted people to take away from being in one of your caves, what would it be?"
Ra: "At least, a moment ... or a length of time in which they had a deeper feeling and a deeper understanding of themselves and life."