15 Bytes | Artist Profiles | Visual Arts

The Gospel According to Ralphael


For nearly 50 years, Ralphael Plescia has been making religious art to explore the story of creation in his private museum in Salt Lake City, Utah.

His project has one overriding vision: to tell the story of Biblical creation in the right way by restoring characters and tales lost to history. The sculptures and paintings are not within the rooms, but are a part of them. Underground tunnels have been hollowed out to make space for Hell and the Garden of Eden. Narrow pathways and bridges traverse groundwater bubbling up from below.

He believes the building has a 98% of being bulldozed when he dies, but that knowledge does not stop him from working every day to complete his life’s work.

Directed by
Travis Low and Torben Bernhard

Produced by
OHO Media (ohomedia.com)
15 Bytes (artistsofutah.org)
VideoWest (videowest.kuer.org)

Cinematography and Color
Torben Bernhard

Sound Design and Mixing
Travis Low

Story Production and Editing
Marissa Lila
with Torben Bernhard and Travis Low

 

You’ll find a discussion of the film as well as Ralphael’s project at KUER’s RadioWest.

13 replies »

  1. Wow, amazing short doc! Those people who created this should be commended for getting the point across in such a short space. Powerful and impactful. Amazing storytelling!

    • Thank you, Dallan! I am one of the co-directors of the film. I hope you’ll help us spread the word and share the film with your friends and family.

  2. Effing unbelievable! I mean breathtaking. This is practically next door to me and I didn’t have any idea it existed. What a marvel and a wonder. It MUST be saved, somehow. This film goes a long way to doing that — on video. But the real deal must be preserved. Can the hospital help? It will belong to them. Can the mayor? The City Council? There must be a way to preserve this from “redevelopment” — sure hope so.

    • I love how you are thinking Ann! This is Travis Low, one of the co-directors of the film. One of our main hopes is that the film will be a catalyst for efforts to preserve this space. So I appreciate how you are thinking. Spread the word, share the film, and let’s figure out a way to preserve Ralphael’s life’s work!

  3. I have always wondered what was going on in that building on State Street! Thanks! That was amazing. I think I need a bucket of Shapecrete too!

  4. I started looking at Outsider Art environments in the 1970s—ironically about the time Raphael Plescia began building his vision. There are dozens of such uncanny, spellbinding constructions all around the world. Some are famous, but most fade away in obscurity. I noticed Raphael’s building the first time I passed it, and immediately learned to watch for it. Untrained visionaries design and construct worlds that, once seen, live forever in the memories and imaginations of those fortunate enough to witness them. They tell us something about who we are as humans that we need to get to understand better. The major difference between Raphael de Santo and Raphael Plescia is that the contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci followed the popular directives of his time, while Salt Lake’s Raphael responds to his own personal vision. It would be very satisfying it this eerie, moving space could be saved; Gilgal Gardens was saved by community action, and that could happen here as well.

  5. Well, that was a beautiful film. So many questions answered! I KNEW there must be a correlation between his house on the west side and that building on State street, but I could never have imagined THIS. Thank you to Ralphael for opening this building up to the film makers, and thank you to the film makers for seeing the value in this man’s life work. Totally amazing!

  6. This is my Grandfather! He is a very special Man, I really enjoyed this video, My brother and I have played in this when we lived in Utah.
    Was alway a joy to go see the Dragon!! One of the memories I love! Thank you for doing this video!

  7. I had heard rumors about Raphael Plescia’s work for years and always wondered about what it really looked like… so great to finally have a peek behind the curtain! A brilliant and important piece of filmmaking that makes me wonder what other secrets are hidden in our own communities! Bravo!

    • Brent: Great to hear that people in Ralph’s family are appreciating the film. Thanks!

      And, thanks Edward: I’m happy to hear that you liked it. (This is Travis, one of the co-directors of the film, I know you from seeing you around at Ken’s bookshop.) Be in touch! I’d love to see/hear about what you are currently working on. Cheers! -Travis (travis.ballard.low@gmail.com)

  8. I have driven by this amazing place so many times without knowing the wonders that are held there. I love that the desire to express oneself can also fulfill oneself.

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