"Chehalis Hegner creates mesmerizing combustible windows through which longings, legends, fabulous and slightly ominous possibilities, peek their heads and wink."
~ Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet
In 1997 I lost the use of my left eye due to an infection. Doctors said I may lose sight in my right eye, too. Grasping what had happened, a switch flipped in me. Priorities shifted. I felt there was no time to waste. Within a matter of weeks, I left my life as a professional musician and refocused my attention on seeing everything I could while I still could.
At that point my camera and I teamed up for good. Together we unleashed ourselves into a new world: one without rules or limitations regarding how or why something is seen or experienced. With a mindset of playful curiosity, my camera and I set out to devour anything calling out to be seen. Paradoxically, blindness set me on a course of looking at the world in a way I had never experienced before. My right eye enables me to see the external while my blind eye reveals things hidden within me. I sometime develop these ideas into constructed realities.
Improvisation is my guide, and the resulting pictures are a record of my states of being during particular moments. Depth of engagement is especially evident when making portraits because the resulting picture will be only as authentic as the connection made with the person.
Making photographs is as much a physical experience as it is intellectual and creative. I have come to believe there is a positive side to even the worst things that happen to us. In my case, blindness gave way to the gift of unrestricted sight as well as an eye that is free, which for me has manifested into a state of being and a way of working. My underlying motivation is to experience the act of seeing. My right eye, informed by its blind sister, possesses a wild excitement my previously complacent and jaded eyes never knew.
Hegner was awarded in two categories in the 2018 Julia Margaret Cameron Awards and in 2010 she received the Gjion Mili Photography Prize (Kosovo.) She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in the US and Europe including: The Griffin Museum (MA), Photographic Resource Center (Boston), Art Institute of Boston, Maryland Art Place (Baltimore), St. Gauden’s National Historic Site (Cornish, NH), The Cultural Center (Varigotti, Italy), Perspective Gallery (Evanston, IL), Interlochen Arts Academy (MI), the MIT Museum (Cambridge, MA) Rey Center (Waterville Valley, NH), University of Massachusetts (Lowell), University of Texas (Austin), Institute of Contemporary Art (Portland, ME) and the National Gallery of Art in Kosovo. In 2005 Chehalis Hegner received her MFA in Photography at Lesley University in Massachusetts.
Chehalis served as a faculty member within the Department of Art and Design at The University of Massachusetts until 2015. She currently works as a full-time artist/owner at Halo Hill Studios near Chicago.
Hegner has served on jury panels, taught photo workshops, and is a member of the ASMP and SPE. She served on the board of directors at The Photographic Resource Center at Boston University where she focused her efforts on strategic planning, development, and programming.