MONROE — Pamela Hedden is an artist and an architect who sees only half the world at a time.

She has a visual condition known as hemianopsia, a rare type of blindness that affects half of her field of vision. In order to get a full image, she needs to physically scan a landscape to take it all in.

Pamela Hedden inks the edges on one of her watercolors at her kitchen table July 14. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

Her blindness was brought on after Hedden suffered a massive stroke in 1999 that caused paralysis to the entire right side of her body. “And with losing the right side,” she said, “I’m blind on the right side of both eyes.”

Hedden was 36 at the time, married with three children, and living in Birmingham, Alabama. She also had a successful architecture practice before her life went dark.

“I flatlined for 2 1/2 minutes,” she said. “It was scary.”

The type of stroke she had, Hedden explained, is called an arteriovenous malformation and usually happens before the age of 40. It can result in a seizure, stroke, or even death. It is caused by a tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, which disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation. “It just wasn’t my time,” she said.

Artwork by Pamela Hedden

She was in a coma for eight days following her stroke and her doctors she had a 10% chance of survival. When Hedden finally woke up, she could not speak and had no memory of what had transpired. She would regain some movement and speech over the following couple of months.

After years of physical, occupational and speech therapy, Hedden said, she recovered to some degree. The one limb she had hoped would get better, her leg, improved enough so she could walk with the aid of a brace. “I love to walk — I used to be a runner,” she noted.  “I had to start over.”

Artwork by Pamela Hedden

Her marriage suffered and she eventually moved away from Birmingham and her family to come live with her retired parents at their summer home in Wayne. “I wasn’t painting yet, but I was dealing with a lot of depression,” she said. “It’s been 21 years now. You get to a point where you have to move on. I’m just so thankful I am alive.”

Hedden began painting watercolors with her left hand about nine years ago, from a “little set you get as a kid.”  Being an architect, she said, her subjects tended to be buildings, houses and landscapes.

From the early small paintings in the beginning she moved on to bigger projects and more difficult subjects. “My painting takes me really far away,” she said, “in a really neat zone of just creating things.”

Artwork by Pamela Hedden.

Hedden studied at Syracuse University, where she graduated with dual degrees in architecture an fine arts and secured a job in New York City at a “great architectural firm.” As an architect for 31 years, she said, she typically used black lead on a white piece of paper. Of the 72 homes she designed, most of her sketches are in black and white.

“When I started painting, it was so much fun to have color,” she said. “It was so alive, so effervescent. Then you learn to mix colors and you have more colors. Very fun.”

Artwork by Pamela Hedden

With a light pencil, she begins her process, drawing out her illustration. She then adds watercolors and then goes over the edges with ink, adding a textural element to the painting. “It comes to life,” she said.

Because of her unique journey and her long road to recovery, Hedden said, she has gained a great deal of patience. “Gaining a sense of being in a place of contentment. I am so grateful for every little thing. That’s a huge part of my life now, is about being grateful.”

Hedden is excited to be exhibiting 32 pieces of her work at the Senator Inn & Spa in Augusta, Thursday, July 29. The opening will be from 10 a.m. to noon at “Cloud 9” restaurant in the inn. Hedden said her paintings will be up for the rest of the summer and all 32 will be available to purchase.

For more information, email or call 242-9901.


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