dar's logo


Would you like to discover more about the concepts behind JUST IMAGINE? Are you curious to know what I had in mind when I made the sculpture for a particular story, perhaps THE MYSTERY BOX, THE TALKING EAR or THE FLYING DREAM? If so, simply scroll down until you find the one that interests you or use the menu to the right.

The NOTES begin with a brief description of the exterior of the book and are followed by an explanation of my ideas about the individual 'stories' that appear inside. Intertwined, are my humble observations about some of the invaluable functions I feel reading provides.

When creating the various works of art for JUST IMAGINE, I hoped to express and emphasize several conceptual themes. As a result, there exists some reoccurrence of metaphor and symbolism within the works. Any reiteratation of thematic explanation in my notes is a direct consequence of these conceptual interconnections.

If you are a docent leading guided tours of the installation, or perhaps a facilitator, conducting JUST IMAGINE workshops, you may wish to consult my notes to enable you to more fully understand and share my ideas.

Whomever the reader, I hope my musings will shed further light upon both my creative process and my ideology concerning the value of imagination and literacy.

outside of book


JUST IMAGINE consists of eight interlocking cabinets that, once assembled, create the illusion of a gigantic book. Opened and upended on its base, the book measures 8' high by 15.5' long. The fanned-out pages are simulated by a row of vertical blinds. These are suspended from a rod attached to the front and back covers and span a distance of 17.5'.

The cover illustration depicts various characters featured in nine unrelated stories within the book. The blackbird appears in SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE, the tortoise in THE HARE & THE TORTOISE, the fish in both THE FLYING DREAM and OPEN SESAME!, and the child in THE FLYING DREAM.

The act of 'flying' alludes to several other characters in JUST IMAGINE: the youngster in THE MAGIC CARPET, the cow in HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE, the blackbird in SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE and the butterfly in OPEN SESAME! The ability to fly symbolizes freedom. Reading unleashes us from the confines of our own personal lives or 'worlds' and gives our imagination free rein to consider other lives and explore different realms. These are concepts integral to JUST IMAGINE.

back-cover painting

The blue background on the cover illustration is purposely ambiguous since both sky and water are settings found within the stories. The stars may be interpreted either as those in the heavens above or as starfish in the oceans below.

Appearing alongside the spine of the book is the title - JUST IMAGINE, the 'author' - CHURCHER, and the imaginary publisher - PICKLE PRESS. The latter is a humourous reference to one of the stories in the book entitled 'PICKLE ISLAND PICK-UP', (see JO THE WRITER). The spine of the book measures 2' wide by 8' high.

The illustration on the back cover depicts a sea anemone and alludes to the sea anemone crown worn by Queen Olivia, a character in PICKLE ISLAND PICK-UP. We learn about Queen Olivia whilst listening to the automated sculpture 'JO THE WRITER', located outside the book. Once inside JUST IMAGINE we discover Queen Olivia in the form of a hand puppet, an actress on stage in the THEATRE.

top of page

sculpture of boy


Jo is an automated sculpture, an automaton. He is thinking hard about the story he is in the process of writing, PICKLE ISLAND PICK-UP. Whenever someone approaches this electronic boy, a hidden motion sensor is triggered and unexpectedly, he starts to move. Jo's scalp slowly elevates to reveal his thoughts below; they are depicted by a rowboat rocking back and forth as if in the ocean. A boy is sitting inside the boat and an octopus hanging from its side. Simultaneously to the movement of the boat, Jo's thoughts can be heard emanating from within his head. See PICKLE ISLAND PICK-UP for details about Jo's story.

Whilst Jo's physical presence is seen in person, his sound and movement, prone to wear and tear, may be viewed on DVD provided.

In 'real' life we cannot peek inside someone else's mind or hear their thoughts. Jo provides a unique opportunity to see and hear someone else's imagination at work.

When we open the pages of a book in 'real' life, we metaphorically enter a new world, one laden with unknown territory and experiences. When we pass through the portals of JUST IMAGINE, however, we physically enter a new world - one also laden with the promise of novel sights, sounds and experiences.

top of page

sculpture of tortoise


Four spinning dioramas illustrate four scenes in this well-known Fable by Aesop. In two scenes, only portions of the hare's body can be seen, we must imagine the rest. At the finishing line, for example, although we can see just the hare's front legs and nothing else, we can easily picture the look of chagrin on his face once he discovers he's lost the race!

Being presented with, and thus discerning only one part of the hare's body is akin to the experience involved in the process of reading. An author imagines a scenario and subsequently attempts to convey certain aspects, e.g., characters, setting, dialogue, plot, etc. We are given a glimpse into the mind of the author - we cannot see the entire interior screen, so to speak. When we read his or her text we are thus able to perceive only one portion of that which the author has imagined, of necessity we must fill in the gaps to envision the entire scenario for ourselves. For every book written, each reader contributes a unique set of personal experiences, vision and interpretation to augment that which the author has initially created. We give the inanimate, written word new life.

top of page

maids face


The laundry maid and blackbird are characters in a famous 'Mother Goose' nursery rhyme, SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE. This rhyme relates how 24 blackbirds were baked in a pie for 'The king' and that when the pie was opened, 'The birds began to sing'. The rhyme finishes with, 'A maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes - when along came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!' The motivation for the blackbird's dastardly act is not revealed in the nursery rhyme. I speculated that perhaps it was gathering various specimens of human noses like an entomologist would collect specimens of butterflies - the blackbird wanted to expand a scientific collection! This idea prompted me to create the ROYAL NOSE MUSEUM. Readers frequently ponder the motivation of protagonists in the books they read and I have considered the same question regarding the blackbird's motivation in SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE.

nose museum

The ROYAL NOSE MUSEUM is a concrete example of how books can stimulate a reader's imagination. Readers inevitably draw their own 'conclusions' concerning both the physical outcome of the plots and the psychological aspects of characters portrayed. Reading promotes creativity in a very significant and beneficial manner.

In addition to augmenting the original nursery rhyme with the ROYAL NOSE MUSEUM, I implemented my own version of the blackbird. Rather than depicting the customary entirely black European species, reflecting the British origin of the rhyme, I chose to create the red-winged, North American species.

top of page

kids feel inside box


What would life be like if we were unsighted? This interactive sculpture provides an example of how reading can broaden our understanding of the challenges others experience by placing ourselves in their shoes. We are unable to see what's inside the box and must put our hands through the holes in its sides to find out. Similarly, if we were actually without sight we might need to rely more frequently on our sense of touch to imagine the nature of the unseen or unknown world surrounding us. Reading promotes 'insight'.

There is another aspect to THE MYSTERY BOX that I would like us to ponder, that of empathy. A creature is locked inside the box with very little space in which to move - it is a 'curiosity,' subject to poking and prodding from human fingers. What emotions would we ourselves feel if we were an animal in the same predicament? How would it shape our view of the world and of humans? By extension, how would it feel to be imprisoned in a confined area as a human being? When we read, we have the opportunity to consider the experiences of others and in the process we develop insight and empathy.

top of page

small doors


'OPEN SESAME!' comprises 4 closed sets of double doors. 'Readers' are compelled to open the closed doors to discover what lies behind them just as they may experience the urge to open books to explore what lies within. The opened doors reveal 4 unrelated scenes:
Reading opens doors to the imagination.

tooth fairy


The inspiration for this work was drawn from western popular culture. Books frequently include references to 'pop' culture and can serve to inform us about customs and societies of which we are not familiar. I wondered, for instance, whether children in other parts of the world have also developed their own tales or stories concerning lost baby teeth, and if so what they are.

top of page


'REFLECTIONS' depicts a child who is imagining their own body in three different scenarios. The child ponders how it would feel to possess the ability to fly like a butterfly; to stretch and touch a distant star; and to have the freedom to explore the oceans while riding a huge fish.


When someone looks upon this work his or her own face is reflected in the face-shaped mirror. Having 'filled' in a facial image above the three-dimensional body, the viewer has become an essential and integral component of the work. In a sense, each onlooker creates a unique, completed image. A parallel situation exists in reading. When an individual reads an author's work, they combine it with their own personality, background, imagination, etc., to create a new and unique reality.

REFLECTIONS empowers the onlooker to more easily identify or imagine themselves in three somewhat unlikely situations: what would it feel like to experience life as a butterfly; touch a star (or stretch their abilities to attain a goal); or to explore the oceans like a fish? Reading enables us to visualize normally 'non-viable' scenarios created by imaginative authors and in so doing it nurtures our very own imaginations.

The word 'reflections' found in the title of the work has another significant, literal meaning. When we read about the experiences of other people it may lead us to 'reflect' not only upon their lives but upon our own lives as well. By identifying with others, we realize that shared emotions and experiences exist. We are not alone, and furthermore, we can discover how other people cope with various and perhaps challenging, circumstances. Reading helps us think through problems and sometimes it can elicit valuable, viable solutions.

top of page



Riding on a 'MAGIC CARPET' is a common childhood fantasy that readily gratifies the need to experience the 'unimaginable'. Once we imagine ourselves flying aboard such a versatile vehicle as a magic carpet, we can observe, explore and discover the entire world without any bounds or limitations. Our imagination, likewise, knows no bounds. All too often, however, the capacity to imagine the unfamiliar, the impossible or the seemingly 'unattainable', dissipates with age. Sadly, I feel that traditional public education all too often squeezes from children almost every last vestige of imagination and creativity with which they are so abundantly endowed at birth. Reading can help prevent this from occurring by constantly nurturing imagination and encouraging it to flourish.

top of page

queen of hearts


The Queen of Hearts is an infamous character featured in Lewis Carroll's book, 'Alice in Wonderland'. I have illustrated a scene in the story during which the Queen plays croquet - her majesty uses a flamingo for a mallet and an unfortunate hedgehog for a ball. This sculpture is simply one interpretation of the author's original text. As was described in 'REFLECTIONS', each person creates their own interpretation or reality of the original version they read in books.

top of page



PICKLE ISLAND PICK-UP is an environmentally conscious story I wrote myself. The three characters portrayed in the story include: Daniel, a young boy, Queen Olivia, 'Guardian of the High Seas' and Octavio, an octopus who is Chief of the 'Pickle-Island Pick-up Crew'.

The story's plot is simple: Daniel and Chief Octavio are trying to clean up the garbage lying at the bottom of the ocean surrounding PICKLE ISLAND. In the scene described by 'Jo', Daniel and Chief Octavio are working together by means of a rowboat. Chief Octavio is retrieving junk from the depths of the ocean and 'handing' it over to Daniel who is stacking everything aboard. They are in a hurry because their revered Queen Olivia will be arriving to inspect their work at noon the following day!

Jo's imaginary characters, Daniel and Queen Olivia, come to life in the form of hand puppets, actors on stage in the Theatre. When visitors slip their hands inside the puppets they simultaneously slip into the roles of Daniel and Queen Olivia. Disguised, and possibly less inhibited, visitors can explore their creative side with spontaneous gestures and dialogue. Reading also enables us to slip into the roles, or imagine ourselves 'in the shoes', of other people. By so doing, we gain insight into how others think and experience the world. I feel that reading serves many functions: one is to gain greater appreciation and understanding of both those with whom we directly interact and those father afield, with whom we share this planet. In short, reading broadens our horizons.

top of page

armadillow pillow


'ARMADILLOW' illustrates one poem in a collection entitled 'AN ARMADILLOW IS NOT A PILLOW' by Canadian author Lois Simmie. Books are frequently so compelling that many a child surreptitiously continues to read long after parents have ordered, "Lights out!" In this sculpture, the bloodshot-eyed boy is reading 'THE EXPLOITS OF MOOMENPAPPA' by the accomplished Finnish author, Tove Jansson. The sleepy boy has been reading by means of a flashlight, something I recall doing myself as a disobedient but determined child!

(Permission to reprint the text kindly granted by the author, Lois Simmie and publisher, Douglas & McIntyre: Vancouver, B.C.).

top of page

flying dream


Writers, as well as others involved in the creative arts, draw on many sources for inspiration, including dreams. The FLYING DREAM illustrates a recurring dream that I experienced as a child.

At the beginning of these 'flying' dreams and for reasons unbeknownst to me, I would find myself running as fast as I possibly could, fleeing from a group of people who were earnestly chasing after me. The gap between us would get smaller and smaller until the very last moment when I was almost caught. At this point I could thrust myself off the ground with such huge momentum I would become airborne! Since nobody else but me was able to fly, I finally felt safe. I then flew with outstretched arms high in the air, wherever I wanted. The sense of liberation and freedom I thus experienced in these, and other less traumatic flying dreams, was indescribable.

THE FLYING DREAM is represented in the form of a copper-weathered whirligig. I am 'the flyer' and the six smaller sculptures below me represent other elements in the dream: a bed, a tree, a fish, two parents, a group of people and a dog. When viewers pump the foot-pedal 'the flyer' and six other elements start to spin independently of each other. The dream is brought to life and onlookers can envision their own version of my 'flying' dream.

Each of the low relief sculptures naturally has two sides. On the sculpture of the bed lies a cat, but it appears in two different positions on either side of the bed. This was my way of indicating the passage of time within my dream.

Dreams liberate our imaginations and give them free rein to sometimes experience things that wouldn’t normally be feasible during conscious, waking hours.

top of page


Since books reflect the thoughts and ideas from the vast array of diverse people that comprise our fascinating world, both past and present, readers have the opportunity to contemplate the world from a wealth of divergent perspectives.

ear mites

One perspective, a rather unusual one often found in children's books, provides the opportunity to imagine life from a non-human species. If we were insects, for instance, how would the physical world then appear and how might we negotiate our surrounding landscape? By magnifying the ear, I am inviting people to imagine either the world much larger, or themselves much smaller, or both.

I further tried to stimulate the imagination of the viewer with the addition of a sound recording that can be heard emanating from within the giant ear. When participants physically feel and probe THE TALKING EAR, they may eventually touch the 'secret' spot (at the entrance to the ear canal) that triggers a motion sensor. This in turn activates a sound recording. Listeners hear a conversation between two insects: the 'father' insect is taking his daughter on her first exploration of the body. They are crawling along the ear canal, with the aid of a lantern, and heading west for one of the largest mountain ranges on the body - the ear. The shining light viewers see emanating from within the centre of THE TALKING EAR is also a reference to the illumination that reading sheds upon our minds. Whether it's regarding the good, the bad or the ugly, reading serves to enlighten us about life, the world, and its diverse inhabitants.

large ear

Apart from contemplating life as a minute insect, onlookers might also gaze upon the enormous TALKING EAR and gain a greater appreciation for their own ears. I think that the ear is a little-considered appendage that has a unique topography of undulating 'hills, planes and valleys'. If we but stop to consider the ear for a moment, we might regard it in a new and perhaps more admirable light. Both the written word and the visual arts can help open our eyes to reveal limitless facets about life - they can bring greater understanding and profound meaning to us all, if we but let it.

The aspect of having to physically 'explore' or touch the ear in order to make audible the conversation occurring inside it, is an important one. It is my conviction that we need to explore, and mentally participate in life, in order to learn and evolve. Some seemingly 'recreational' activities drain our brains by passivity but reading is an engaging process that involves mental calisthenics and critical thinking.

THE TALKING EAR presents a bit of an anomaly. The ear allows us to hear what's going on externally, but we can't normally listen outside an ear to hear what's going on inside it!

I wanted my concepts about THE TALKING EAR to be representative of people of all cultures. In order to achieve an all-inclusive effect, my only option was to paint the ear a pigment that does not actually exist - and I chose purple!

top of page

cow with frisbee


'Hey Diddle Diddle' is the title of a nonsense rhyme by the British writer, Edward Lear, 1812-1888. As previously mentioned, reading prompts us to ask questions and in this specific case we might well ask, "Why did the cow jump over the moon?" The original text provides no explanation and I have come up with just one of limitless possibilities - the cow needed to fly over the moon in order to catch a frisbee!

top of page


Reading serves many functions and I have considered but a few in my book, JUST IMAGINE. Besides informing and educating, reading can also trigger countless thoughts and emotions: we may recall long-forgotten memories, laugh, cry or empathize, become incensed about environmental or human rights' concerns or inspired and motivated to embark in a new direction. But whatever thoughts do arise, reading inevitably stimulates imagination.

Reading plays an important role in our lives, of that there can be no argument. But what about the broader picture, how often do we question our actual ability to read? Most of us take it for granted.

While having spent two years of my life creating JUST IMAGINE, and having expounded here at length on the virtues of reading, I am acutely aware that literacy is enjoyed by only one portion of the world's populations. Countless millions of people, in all walks of life, everywhere around the world and particularly in impoverished nations, are unable to read. The opportunity to learn to read simply does not exist for them. I feel strongly that those people in the educational, political, or economic position to do so, should do everything in their power to rectify this situation and promote literacy whenever possible. The onus is on everyone, though, not just those in high places, to do what they can to make literacy more accessible. At the very least, we can encourage literary within our own families and communities close to home.

In conclusion, I return to the capacity all of us possess, regardless of literacy. Imagination is one of life's vital ingredients. Not only does imagination spark creativity in the multi-faceted world of visual arts, literature, music, theatre and dance, it propels exploration, discovery and innovation in countless other critical fields of human endeavour. Without imagination there is no hope.

top of page