the world within the earth and ourselves


MMy final and most ambitious project is 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.  It is a culmination of everything I have learned and dreamed of in creating caves.

       A mile walk in the wilderness becomes a pilgrimage journey to a hand dug, elaborately sculpted cave complex illuminated by the sun through multiple tunneled windows.  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.

In social art, creating the work of art is not the objective in itself, as in an exhibit, but is a means to bring about social change. The response to the artwork is not merely left to its audience as an endpoint in the process but is an element in a larger encompassing creative process. In the analogy of art being one of the colors on the social artist’s palette, the canvas would be society itself, its social conditions in a particular location. In using the aesthetic to address societal suffering, social art is not content with merely decorating the world; its intent is to change it.

    Changing the world is a tall order. Art doesn’t attempt to force change through direct action but to catalyze it by affecting the emotional basis from which change can occur.

    Begging the question, “How can we change what we do before we change how we feel?”  Its underlying premise is that when through wonder and the sense of beauty we move from the emotional realm of our desires and fears to the more expansive and deeper feelings of thanksgiving and appreciation of life with a sense of its sacredness, our actions will automatically be modified, creating a better world – ‘like magic’.

    This is the magic of art, music, theatre, and of the beauty of the natural world. We need for that magic to play a more direct role in our lives.


           In the midst of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the West are rural communities of warm-hearted, family-oriented people from unique cultural traditions 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. (The death rate by drug overdose in Rio Arriba County is the highest of any county in the nation.)

    All of this in rural communities filled with artists and craft-persons nearby to one of the nation’s major art centers in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    The tri-cultural framework of Hispanic native New Mexicans, Native Americans and Anglo Americans has been added to in recent years by a significant immigrant population mostly from Mexico. By and large these groups live in separate worlds, in relationship marred by undercurrents of misunderstanding from language and cultural differences, economic pressures and historical antagonisms. Add to this mix wealthy ‘newcomers’ from out of state who buy up multi-acre lots of choicest land on which to build million dollar houses that cause property values to skyrocket, thus forcing the local population onto ever smaller plots of subdivided family properties with trailers on them.

This is the context for the social art of the Luminous Caves.