For years, I've repurposed old, metal lunchboxes. A Rambo lunchbox became a lunchbox dedicated to Great Women of Literature. Another honored Great Writers of the South. More recently, I've dedicated a lunchbox to The Donner Party. For a long time, though, I've had it in my head to create the ultimate Superhero Lunchbox...not a lunchbox featuring Batman or Wonder Woman, but a box honoring my real-life heroes.

I posed this challenge to a wide circle of friends: get your hands on a metal lunchbox, and put some thought into who or what your heroes are, and why. And then get to work making the Superhero Lunchbox of your dreams.

This online exhibit is the result of that challenge. I hope visitors to this site will find it fun and interesting, and maybe even inspiring. Lunchboxes are such useful things, and so many of us have fond memories of toting tuna sandwiches to school in our Partridge Family or Six Million Dollar Man lunchboxes. There seems to me to be no reason for us to outgrow this tradition of toting around our meals in metal boxes that say something about who we are, what we like, and what our values are. I know I've never outgrown it.

Start here, because it's what started it all for me, and work your way up. Enjoy. Leave some feedback. Make a lunchbox.

For a more detailed view, click on the individual images.

If you're moved to make a lunchbox of your own, and have it included in this exhibit, submissions are welcome. Get your hands on a metal lunchbox (no plastic, please) - you can buy a blank one from or repurpose an old one. Go to town. Choose your superhero, and and run with it. Photograph your finished lunchbox, write a few words about your subject, and send the photos and text to me at, with the words "Superhero Lunchbox" in the subject box.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lana Nieves: No-Face

No-Face is a beautiful, tragic, lonely creature from the world of Spirited Away. He is an empty vessel, hungry for whatever he can feed off of from other beings. He notices people's greed, and uses it to lure them close to him with the promise of gold. Once close, No-Face feeds on their very personality traits, in an effort to BECOME something or someone. Only through an encounter with a child who is good-natured and pure of heart does No-Face come to see that there can be more to his existence than feeding on the greed and weakness of others.

A crafting group I belong to issued a challenge for members to create something that was inspired by Japan. Anything. I know very little about Japan. I considered doing something with a Godzilla theme. Or something about sushi. Then I thought about all the lunchboxes I'd made over the years. And the Japanese bento boxes that have become popular in the USA. And No-Face. I knew it had to be.

I love No-Face. I love that his story is one of hope, and redemption. I love it that only a child can save him from his sad existence.  

The image of No-Face and the red bridge is a construction paper collage, with a thin layer of glaze on top for texture. Inside of the No-Face bento box is a reminder of his origins. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Z. Artinian, Rock Star At Large

A video submission from a young friend of mine. Thanks for making a lunchbox and sharing it, Zahzah!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Herr Metzger, Matt Polchlopek : Klaus Nomi

This box was made as a payment to a friend who made a cross stitch for me, but the idea had roots long before that. 

Pastry chef, singer, friend of Bowie, and a dude from outer space, all of these things describe Klaus Nomi. Nomi was a character, and a hell of an inspiration. He blended new wave and opera and made them sound as if they always belonged together. He was equal parts gimmick and talent, with his wacky hair, plastic tuxedo and make-up combined with his gorgeous counter tenor arias.I was drawn to Nomi from the moment I found him. He seemed to have fun with the pop opera elements, but could also make you weep with his more serious arias (his version of the Cold Song from Purcell's King Arthur comes to mind) It's a shame that Nomi isn't around anymore, I can only imagine what he would be doing now. 

This box is to honor the man, the myth, the Nomi.  
Herr Metzger, Matt Polchlopek


Friday, August 16, 2013

Lana Nieves - Burlesque

I became friendly with Amy because of insomnia. We were both Goddard students during a time when there were less than 40 people living on campus. I usually had a difficult time sleeping, and would find myself walking around campus late at night - often with my good friend, Peter. We'd walk around (usually one of us carrying a bottle of booze that we'd take turns swigging from) looking for anyone else who was awake. If your lights were on, you were fair game. Amy's lights were often on into the wee hours of the morning. At some point, late night visits to Amy's room became a semi-regular thing. We'd usually find her working on some creative endeavor. I don't remember a hell of a lot of what was discussed during those visits, except that Amy had a pug back home, who she liked to talk about. She kept a copy of a book called This Is Your Pug on her desk. For some reason, this always tickled me. It still does. I remember really liking Amy, pretty much right away, and thinking she was like no one else. Funny, Smart. Warm. Adorable. Daring. Her artwork seemed to revolve around female sexuality. I won't pretend I understood most of it, or even that I tried to. I was at least a little bit drunk most of that time. I knew she was on to something, though. And I knew Amy was sort of...audacious? fierce? Both. Audacious and fierce. And cute. You don't see that mixture very often.

I haven't seen Amy in a long time. Decades. She's still out there, though. Still audacious and fierce. And cute. She's embraced the world of burlesque since I last saw her. Again, she's dabbling in something I'm not sure I completely grasp, but I think Amy is pretty damned great so it follows suit that whatever she's immersed herself in is lucky to have her on board. Amy turned 50 this year and her friends threw her a burlesque-themed birthday party. My understanding is that the party took the form of a performance, with Amy seated front row, center for her very own command performance of Plainfield's amateur burlesque theater. I couldn't be there but, when I heard it was going to be Amy's birthday, and I was invited to the themed-event, I knew burlesque would play a part in whatever I chose to send Amy as a birthday greeting.

The burlesque lunchbox celebrates this art form, it's true, but that's not the real, Superhero Lunchbox intention. I made this for Amy, who's an Artist. With a capital A. Amy is cool on so many levels, but let me say this: she is a born Artist, and she's living the life of an Artist. I have mad respect for the way she's created a life for herself that always includes - and probably revolves around - her artistic endeavors.  Artists are Superheroes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lana Nieves - The Donner Party

While I realize there's an undeniably snarky irony inherent in making a lunchbox depicting The Donner Party,  I really did mean this as an homage, more than anything else. The story of The Donner Party is the dark side of the American Dream. I guess it could be seen as being a cautionary tale about hubris, but I think it's both a tragedy, and a testament to the innate human will to survive.

The Donner family (and the families who traveled with them, including the Reeds and the Breens) were pioneers. They had real chutzpah. They packed up their stuff, and headed for parts unknown, in search of a new life, and prosperity. Their strength of character and sense of adventure make them heroes of a sort to me. This aspect of who they were gets lost in the telling of their tragic story.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Michelle Chevallier

When I first started this artwork, I was really mulling over who to choose. I don't really have personal heroes. I had purchased a multipack of vintage postcards to use for another project, and I opened it to find a bonus of not only postcards, but a pristine set of luggage labels. I had the realization that a lunchbox is like a mini suitcase, and the idea was born.

The problem was narrowing down the list of who to represent. There are many designers that contributed to the golden era of luggage labels, but I didn't have those of anyone famous. Eventually I decided that I would call this the Franz Lenhart/Jan Lavies Tribute Lunchbox, as both had a major influence on this "golden era."

Franz Lenhart had just enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts when World War I began. In 1922, Lenhart moved to Florence to complete his studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti and began working as an apprentice poster designer at a local printing shop. Once Lenhart earned his diploma he moved to Merano, where he began teaching and working as an artist. A gifted portrait artist, Lenhart was a master in capturing the light and atmosphere of the Italian Alps and Dolomities.

Jan Lavies was a Dutch commercial designer who was born in Holland and spent most of his career working in the Dutch East Indies for the publicity agency Aneta. During the 1930's he designed posters, advertising, luggage labels and folders for the Netherlands-Indies Hotel Association and K.P.M. the Royal Parcel Shipping Company. Lavies received many awards and praise for his modern Art Deco designs, using strong color combinations and clean compositions. His labels capture the brilliant color and natural beauty of the aforementioned exotic lands.

My components on the front and back and interior are the luggage labels, some rubber travel related stamps, and snippets and pictures from a travel-related scrapbook sheet. I was concerned about the reaction of the old labels to any sort of sealant, so I left the front unsealed. The back required contact paper to get the rubber stamps to stay put. I'm not really happy about how the back turned out with the contact paper, but this is my first lunchbox and it turned out better than I expected.
The side panels are composed of reproduction lithograph Victorian perfume labels from Victor Vassier in Paris. I chose them because they are related to the travel theme in that they were affixed to shipping crates, instead of luggage.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lana Nieves - Lana Winters

Ok, so this is a weird one. I became obsessed with season two of American Horror Story: Asylum, and its main character. The show revolves around Lana Winters, a writer and a lesbian, living life in 1960s Boston, who ends up being committed to an asylum from which there is seemingly no escape, and all because she's gay and has something to say. The asylum turns out to be a house of unspeakable horrors including filth, over-medication, physical torture, exposure to all kinds of criminally insane people (worst of all being the nuns and doctors who run the place) and a bunch of de-gayifying treatments I can't even think about.  Anyhow, people kept telling me I should just stop watching, because this fucking show upset me so much, on a personal level, every week. But I couldn't stop. I. Could. Not. It was too good. The writing was too good. Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange and Lily Rabe were too fucking good. And Lana Winters was too likable. I rooted for her. I felt obliged to see her through to the bitter end, whatever that end would be. The whole show seemed to revolve around the idea of being abandoned and forgotten because one is a misfit: it's why no one really misses Lana Winters when she's locked up, seemingly forever.  Who really CARES about some woman? Some lesbian, no less? Some dumb-ass, loud-mouth, lesbian writer. Named Lana, for heaven's sake.  I was soooo not going to quit this one. I'm glad I didn't. It's pretty fucking great. Lana, for all her human failings, is pretty fucking great, and gets as triumphant an ending as one can get, given the nature of this drama. How can I not have love for a story where everyone dies, except for loud-mouthed, lesbian writer named Lana? A lunchbox was definitely in order.