Lunch Hour is a visual meditation on work-life balance in America at the start of the 21st century.
Created when the author was a new parent and balancing the realities of a day job, a night job, and a raft of freelance gigs to make ends meet — and an art practice withering on the vine — Lunch Hour reveals how creativity can break through in unexpected and humorous ways.
First and foremost a visual art project, this book features two dozen collages made entirely of office supplies.
Scroll down to read the introduction and see sample illustrations.
Work-life balance — the very notion feels rooted in the pursuit of happiness, inextricably bound to the American Dream. Yet the more I consider it, the less it applies to me or to anyone I know. In fact, the concept itself may be a sleight-of-hand trick, because, unlike most terms, which feel natural describing or affirming a presence, work-life balance was born of a lack, created from our need to express that which we’ve lost over that which we have.
As with any late-industrial economy, we were promised that advances in technology and globalization would deliver better work experiences and greater leisure time. And while many undeniable benefits have been realized from this agenda, the gains have also come with losses. Manufacturing jobs became safer, then moved offshore. Improvements in our cell phones, computers, and the Internet gave us the “information superhighway.” Shortly thereafter, we got our digital tethers, as we’re all held accountable to bosses, clients, family, and friends—our respective social “need-works”—twenty-four hours a day. I wonder: how much further can we be pushed by our own ambitions? And to what end?
The signs revealing our cultural dis-ease with this dynamic are everywhere. Corporations market their distinctive “business cultures” to new recruits, anticipating candidates’ laments before their first day starts. A cottage industry has developed around work-life balance consciousness, with business school gurus and life coaches publishing well-spun screeds for our consumption. Recent innovations in the field include: Work-Life Balance Isn’t the Point!, ’Work-Life Balance’ Should Be ‘Work-Life Integration’, and Jive Survey Hints the Work/Life Balance Concept Is Dead. For all our visionaries minting pages of articles on the topic, the tone is curiously homogenous, as each piece persuades us to embrace the changes we’re seemingly destined to tolerate.
The solutions offered feel misguided, since, somewhere at their core, they presume we all work in our chosen fields, a privilege that only the luckiest among us will know. For most of my life, this assumption has not been consistent with my experience—that of a worker, now with a family, who clocks full-time-plus hours each week, who has frequently held two or more jobs at the same time and often in different fields, who would never turn down a chance to freelance on the side, who volunteers for good causes, and who is also an artist—committed to his own creative practice at every moment. I’m not complaining: I’m accustomed to how things work. But speaking as an artist, the public conversations we’re having about how to remedy our work-life-balance issues are ones I can only witness from the sideline, nodding politely with shoulders shrugged. Until our experts change their focus to an art-family-life-work balance model, I’ll continue living beyond the boundaries of their wisest words. Lunch Hour is my first visual meditation on the topic…