“Las Que Saben” is a detailed drawing in coloured pencil on paper, created by young artist Alexi Marshall. The drawing depicts 3 female figures from myth, folklore and religion who are seen to be the givers, takers or preservers of life.
The figure on the left is Santa Muerte. She is a female deity or folk saint in Mexican and Mexican-American folk Catholicism.
A personification of death, she is associated with healing, protection, and safe delivery to the afterlife by her devotees. Those who pray to her seek a preservation of life and a safe journey to the afterlife. Her style of dress is not dissimilar to that of the Virgin Mary, and she is seen as a mother figure.
The central figure is from Trinidadian folklore. Her name is La Diablesse (pronounced la jar bless). Behind her is a palm tree to allude to her Caribbean heritage. The artist has Trinidadian heritage which is where she originally heard of this myth. The legend says that she was born human, but her deals with the devil made her become a demon. To others, her poise, figure and dress make her seem beautiful. However, her hideous face is hidden by a large brimmed hat and her long dress hides the fact that one leg ends in a cow hoof. She walks with one foot on the road and her cow hoof in the grass at the side of the road. She can cast spells on her unsuspecting male victims, whom she leads into the forest. When in the forest, she disappears and the man, confused, lost and scared, runs around the forest until he falls into a ravine or river, or gets eaten by wild dogs and dies. She represents untamed female sexuality, the wild feminine that should be feared. Her outward appearance as desirable allow her to be seen as a representation of youth, the maiden of this trinity. She is the one with the power to take life.
The final figure is La Loba, from Mexican folklore. She is an old woman who collects wolf bones, lights a fire and sings over them. In the drawing, the words ‘la que sabe’ (she who knows) are seen within her smoky song over the fire. The legend is that when she does this a naked woman runs out the fire being reborn, a tiny detail which can be seen just above the figure in the drawing. La ‘Loba’ is the Wolf Woman who gathers the bones and sings over them to bring them back to life – literally re-remembering them with her magical song – a powerful image of the Crone as not only the midwife of souls but she is who is the catalyst for renewal and rebirth. She becomes the giver of life in this taker/preserver/giver trinity representing the circle of life through sacred feminine figures. To her right is a stork with a baby, alluding to the nature of birth and the cycle commencing once again.
These figures are the artists own reimagining of ‘The Triple Goddess’. This is a deity or deity archetype revered in many Neopagan religious and spiritual traditions. In common Neopagan usage, the Triple Goddess is viewed as a triunity of three distinct aspects or figures united in one being. These three figures are often described as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, each of which symbolizes both a separate stage in the female life cycle and a phase of the Moon, and often rules one of the realms of heavens, earth, and underworld.
For over 2000 years, the symbol of the trinity has been represented by a male deity. Through this trinity people have looked for salvation and revelation. However, in ‘Las Que Saben’, the artist uses her own personal deities plucked from myth, folklore and religion to understand the cyclical nature of life and death. Other symbols of this theme can be seen hidden in this work such as a stork with a baby (as mentioned above) and a pregnant woman in the crowd below. Above all the figures, angels and cherubs dance around a ribbon that reads ‘life and death and life and death and life again once more.’
In the centre of the piece, four baby faces dangle in the middle - each representing the four elements of life: wind, water, fire and earth. In tarot and astrology and other ancient symbolism fire and air are seen as masculine whereas earth and water are feminine. This is shown in the drawing with a man and woman dangling from the elements, but ultimate connected through the stringy lines from heart to heart – a motif inspired by one of the artists favourite works; ‘The Two Fridas’by Frida Kahlo. In this painting strings can be seen connecting the two hearts. In fact, if you look closely on the bottom left corner of the painting a small Frida Kahlo can be seen in the crowd.
The reason for the Mexican influence in this piece is that the drawing was made while the artist was in Mexico on a travel scholarship. The crowd at the bottom of the piece was inspired by the many murals she saw there, with some characters in the crowd plucked straight from Diego Rivera’s murals.