Jason deCaire’s version of La Diablesse from David Elliot’s article
Today a friend of mine posted a very interesting article onto my Facebook page, the photo was enough to capture my attention! Freelance writer, David Elliot explores a range of spectacular underwater sculptures produced by artist, Jason deCaires Taylor. In Grenada, visitors are invited to go scuba diving in order to view these three dimensional sculptures, this is by far the most unique idea / concept I have heard of!
In a way, Taylor is using the natural environment as an exhibition space, where visitors have to psychically submerge themselves into the Caribbean waters in order to witness Taylor’s unique body of work. According to Elliot, the artist’s collection features a range of unusual figures that depict ancient “Grenadian folklore”, although there was one sculpture that immediately captured my attention.
Taylor’s Underwater Sea Sculptures
Elliot’s article features a photograph of ‘La Diablesse’, an uncanny female figure with a brimmed hat and a skeletal face, there is something quite unsettling about this particular figure, especially the dark eye sockets and the unusual facial expressions that provide quite a sinister appearance. Even the name sounds sinister and the figure reminds me of something you would normally see in a horror film!
I can imagine that this particular figure would certainly give someone quite the fright, I know I would be disturbed, yet intrigued if I ever decided to go scuba diving in Grenada! So I began to question, who is ‘La Diablesse’? I’ve always been interested in ancient mythology / folklore, although I haven’t even heard about ‘La Diablesse’ until I discovered Elliot’s article. 1
Top View of La Diablesse, Photograph taken by Kiran Lall, 2006
In the ‘Encyclopedia of the African Dispora: Origins, Experiences and Culture’, Antonia MacDonald – Smythe describes this unusual figure as the “female devil”. There are many stories in ‘Caribbean folklore’ that were used to enforce good behaviour, these tales were also used warn others not to fall for a person based upon their physical appearance! 2
In comparison, Judika Illes from the ‘Encylopedia of Spirits’ explains that this attractive and alluring female figure would often isolate her victims within deserted areas, where they would be faced with death or immortality. 3
The victims finally witness the woman’s true appearance that is far from what they were expecting, instead they are faced with something rather deadly! Illes also mentions that ‘La Diablesse’ resembles certain characteristics to the human skull, I can see some of these ideas / concepts portrayed within Caire’s underwater sculpture!
Front View Photograph of La Diablesse
Taylor’s version of ‘La Diablesse’ does remind me of the human skull, especially the figure’s pale facial complexion, the dark eye sockets and the jawline. The photograph is quite extraordinary, the blue and green hues also provide a rather interesting effect! The skeletal frame contrasts with the figure’s pale, ghostly face and the artist has chosen the perfect location for this particular sculpture.
The ocean does provide a sense of isolation and disembodiment that also adds to the figure’s dark and sinister nature! So I often wonder how the artist creates these underwater sculptures? Creating a sculpture is quite a challenging task, creating an underwater sculpture is taking things to a whole new level!
Photography by Jason Taylor
According Taylor’s official website, these sculptures are produced by a range of materials that do not damage or harm the environment, in fact these sculptures are designed to assist with the development of underwater organisms. There is limited information in regards to the physical production of these underwater sculptures, just thought of developing a work of art under the ocean is definitely exciting! 4
I suppose the actual creation / production will remain a mystery, although I would definitely love to visit these sculptures one day. I would definitely recommend reading Elliots article or visit Jason deCaires Taylor’s website, the photographs will definitely inspiring and captivating! Hey if your feeling adventurous you could even visit the sculptures in Grenada, that would be a visit of a life time!
1. Elliot, David, “La Diablesse and other sweet Grenadian Dreams”, WordPress Blog (Accessed 14/10/13), http://theromantictraveller.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/la-diablesse-and-other-sweet-grenadian-dreams/
2. Smythe, Antonia MacDonald & Davies, Carole Boyce ed. “La Diablesse” in the Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora: Origins, Experiences and Culture, Volume 1 (California: ABC-CLIO, 2008)
3. Illes, Judika, “Diablesse La” in the Encyclpedia of Sprits (New York: Harper Collins Books, 2009),
4. Jason deCaires Taylor, “Overview”, Jason deCaires Taylor Official Website, undated, http://www.underwatersculpture.com/about/overview/