Taking his cue from his paternal grandmother, who was an excellent artist, Dave Blumenthal spent his younger years trying to emulate her. While he gave his artistic talents away during university and early days of work, he picked it all back up when his daughter started school, covering her brown paper sandwich bags with drawings.
Blumenthal admits he never entertained the idea of exhibiting his bags, yet in a “surreal” moment, a dedicated exhibition is now showing at Boroondara Town Hall Gallery.
“I still shake my head that this quirky little ritual has garnered so much interest around the world (I am told my bags were even discussed recently on the LA TV news a few weeks back). It’s all quite surreal – but really lovely,” Blumenthal told The AJN.
Blumenthal’s sandwich bag cartoons were exhibited last year at the National Cartoon Gallery in Coffs Harbour. Because it was amid the COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria, most of his family and friends never had the opportunity to visit.
He said having an exhibition in his hometown, and his own suburb, means people can finally see the sandwich bags outside of the school playground environment, before joking, “At the very least [it] will mean my friends and family will have to be far more creative in coming up with excuses why they can’t visit the exhibition this time!”
The Cartoon Chronicles of Sandwich Bag Dad is a collection of about 50 of Blumenthal’s favourite lunch bags.
“There are quite a few that I drew during lockdown (when the kids were home-schooling but which I kept drawing to keep sane), a few new ones that were made especially for the occasion, plus some of my personal favourites from the last 10 years that I redrew for fun, since almost all originals never make it home from holding a school lunch sandwich for a few hours,” he explained.
When asked how his daughters feel about the exhibition, Blumenthal said he believes deep down, they’re proud.
“They always roll their eyes at their daily lunch bags and will often joke that they don’t understand why people would consciously want to expose themselves to ‘the sandwich bag dad’ experience. As they often say, they have no choice in the matter, but the general public ought to know better,” he laughed. “Deep down (perhaps incredibly deep down) I know they are proud to be part of the story.”
For Blumenthal, he hopes his lunch bags bring smiles and laughs to those who visit the free exhibition.
“While there might be no such thing as a free lunch, the same adage obviously doesn’t apply to lunch bags.”
The Cartoon Chronicles of Sandwich Bag Dad is on until September 24 at Boroondara Town Hall Gallery.