Feb 9th 2018

Nathan Hiemstra: Secret Hideaways

@ Chicago Art Department

1932 S Halsted St, Ste 100, Chicago, IL 60608

Opening Friday, February 9th, from 6PM - 10PM

On view through Friday, February 9th

Closing reception, 6-10pm, February 9.

An exhibition of drawings about cozy places of delight, fun, relaxation, and wonder.

Curated by Marta Sasinowska.

Coloring books of the drawings are for sale!

The hideaways are of cabins, treehouses, and boats. They are nestled in woods, near streams and lakes and are furnished with unexpected objects of wonder like parachuting treasures, water slides coming out of trees, and pet clouds. The objects are drawn simply, like I did as a kid.

For creating a narrative to connect all the drawings, words felt too specific. So, on the wall behind all the drawings, I made a drawing of a large map with markers scattered across two islands indicating where each hideaway lives. I challenge you to guess which marker belongs to which hideaway. You’ll see hints by matching the geography between the drawing and map.

At the exhibition there will be coloring books full of these hideaways. We invite you (and your inner child) to color and hang out in a cozy corner of the gallery with blankets, snacks, a fake campfire, and Nathan’s pet cloud Molly.


As a kid, I wanted to hide away from my stepdad. His explosive, unpredictable anger was a cinder block dangling above my head. I never knew what would bring it down onto my skull. For years, I had recurring dreams of running endlessly or hiding inside walls.

These hideaways are places where he could never find me.

It’s healing to draw what I needed as a kid. The cabins, tree houses, woods, shade, and water give me comfort. The parachuting treasures, pet clouds, and other curious objects swell my sense of wonder.

These drawings started when I drew my grandparent’s house from memory on a whim.

It filled me with love and comfort. When I asked myself what else would give me this feeling, I found myself drawing a cabin and dog house in the woods.

Because of recovery work I had been doing, I recognized I was having a conversation with my inner child, whose unrequited needs had often come out sideways. The healing involves acknowledging those needs and providing nurturing, which in this case meant listening and responding with drawings. This became the method for creating the secret hideaways, one chunk at a time.

“Okay, it’s just you and me. I’m going to draw anything you want. What would give you comfort to see next to this dog house?”

When I reach deep into the feelings of that kid, responses are unlocked that I never would have come up with otherwise.

“A path going into the woods.”
“Okay, done. What else?”
“Put a door in that tree.”
“And what’s at the top of the tree?”
“Another door that comes out to a platform. With a hammock. And snacks. And a paper airplane flying by. Towing a cloud.”

I draw everything he suggests, item by item. There is no plan. I intentionally let this get me into trouble compositionally and thematically. When I forget about where the drawing is going and commit to each item as an authentic resident of this world, it adds a richness that gives more for us to draw upon when finding ways out of trouble. In fact, in the middle of trouble is I hear the most magical suggestions.


– hammocks
– parachuting items of delight
– campfires
– tents
– tunnels
– picnic tables
– objects floating by in streams
– hidden beds
– lookout towers
– water slides
– trees with doors
– boats
– pet clouds
– slices of pie
– performance stages
– concession stands
– glowing candles
– rope swings
– shady places to rest
– tree houses
– stores (full of treats)
– lakes
– woods
– bath tubs
– hot tubs
– paper airplanes carrying out tasks

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