Lot #020

Emmanuel Garibay

Holy Family
signed and dated 2001 (lower left)
oil on canvas
48” x 61” (122 cm x 155 cm)
Starting Bid : Php 240,000
HP + BP : Php 584,000
Among the more prolific expressionist figurative artists of the last two decades, 2002 Thirteen Artists-Awardee Emmanuel Garibay has often drawn from sacred imagery, not as an expression of his own spirituality, but as a way of presenting the complexities of Philippine social reality in familiar terms.
The image of the naked Holy Family aboard a jeepney, for instance, is very familiar in Garibay’s oeuvre. In his book Where God Is: The Paintings of Emmanuel Garibay, the artist collects several paintings whose nuances highlight the various problems many poor families have to deal with. Sagrada Familia, on one hand, represents the Holy Family riding the jeep away from persecution. A second painting, Tahanan, depicts the family taking up residence inside the jeepney instead of simply living in it. “This is to dramatize the state of poverty that many Filipinos are in right now,” Garibay described in an interview.
With Holy Family, there are several details that should disturb the viewer. The most apparent of these is the knife sticking out of St. Joseph’s chest. Unlike in previous depictions of the Holy Family, Garibay also chooses to omit the mouths from both Joseph and Mary. The child Jesus clasps what appears to be a glass jar, either imprinted with a heart or carrying one inside of it.
In today’s context, this particular image seems somewhat apt. We may not know the origin of the father’s blade, but its intrusion calls to mind the early death of St. Joseph in the Gospel, and reminds of the many Filipino families who are often challenged when one of the parents dies, certainly after a killing. The removal of their mouths signifies the exclusion of their voices from any discussion of any kind. Unable to speak for themselves, our eyes turn to the child, the only one still capable of speaking. He carries a heart in a glass jar, evoking fragile warmth, echoed in the child’s nesting between the two parents.
It is clear here that, despite these details, Garibay is elevating the status of his subject, placing the masses at the forefront of the viewer’s consciousness by relegating to them the status of the divine. Not merely an interrogation of the current state of affairs, the artist calls to mind that the greatest glories are embedded in the most humble circumstances, and that one need not look very far in order to seek the sacred.