Gifted teenage artist won’t let disabilities paint her in a corner – Orange County Register

Clara Woods is fluent in three languages: Italian (she spent her first 14 years in Florence), Portuguese (her mother is Brazilian) and English (her family moved to Huntington Beach two years ago).

But she can’t speak, read or write any of them.

Clara suffered a prenatal stroke that severely damaged one hemisphere of her brain, leaving the right side of her body weakened.

Now 16, Clara found her voice in another way: she paints.

She paints big. She paints bold. She paints bright. Her colorful creations contain all the words and emotions that Clara would otherwise struggle to convey.

And along the way, Clara developed an international fan base. She has sold over 650 paintings, some for over $1,000.

“I came across his paintings on Instagram,” said Rhonda Zoch, who lives in Sharon, New Hampshire. “Clara’s works are full of sparkle, verve and light.”

The retired art teacher owns two paintings by Clara.

“You can’t walk past them without smiling,” she said. “His paintings really brighten up a room.”

Clara’s parents, Carlo Woods and Betina Genovesi, have transformed the front part of their one-story house into an art gallery. Paintings line the walls of what was once the living room, dining room, and family room. There is no furniture except for a TV and a sofa in the den.

The artwork even spills out onto the front and back patios. It’s hard to miss Clara’s house, with the 8-foot-tall painting titled “Rainbow River” placed outside.

The entire garage is his workspace, splashed all over the place in vivid fashion – both with purpose (on canvases) and as a byproduct (on the floor).

Clara discovered her passion for painting at the age of 10. Using her left hand, she mixes acrylics in eye-catching hues, layering thick layers of paints into interesting shapes.

Some of his paintings recall the impressionism of Claude Monet. Others evoke the cubism of Pablo Picasso or the technical drip of Jackson Pollock or the pop art of Peter Max. In other words, Clara has her own eclectic style.

  • Clara Woods also uses different clothes as her canvas, like these tennis shoes. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods' dad, Carlo Woods, lends a hand while helping...

    Clara Woods’ father, Carlo Woods, lends a hand while helping his daughter with a recent project. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods and her brother Davi Woods, together in the...

    Clara Woods and her brother Davi Woods, together in the family garage, where Clara does a lot of painting. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Woods' Huntington Beach home doubles as an art gallery...

    Woods’ home in Huntington Beach doubles as an art gallery of Clara’s work. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods, 16, uses a lot of paint and applies...

    Clara Woods, 16, uses a lot of paint and applies various techniques to manipulate it once on canvas. Here she is using a hair dryer. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Woods' Huntington Beach home doubles as an art gallery...

    Woods’ home in Huntington Beach doubles as an art gallery of Clara’s work. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods, 16, sits with some of her work on...

    Clara Woods, 16, sits with some of her artwork on display at her home. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Woods' Huntington Beach home doubles as an art gallery...

    Woods’ home in Huntington Beach doubles as an art gallery of Clara’s work. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods' dad, Carlo Woods, lends a hand while helping...

    Clara Woods’ father, Carlo Woods, lends a hand while helping his daughter with a recent project. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • The Woods family from left to right, dad Carlo Woods,...

    The Woods family from left, dad Carlo Woods, Clara Woods, mum Betina Genovesi and 10-year-old Davi Woods all sit among some of Clara’s artwork. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods' style can be seen on her hands that...

    Clara Woods style can be seen on her hands which show the paints she uses. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods, 16, sits with some of her work on...

    Clara Woods, 16, sits with some of her artwork on display at her home. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

  • Clara Woods, 16, sits with some of her work on...

    Clara Woods, 16, sits with some of her artwork on display at her home. Woods suffered a severe prenatal stroke that left her unable to speak. She does much of her work in the family garage in Huntington Beach on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Photo by Michael Goulding, Contributing Photographer)

Clara’s natural talent quickly caught the eye. European magazines and newspapers featured her in articles. A Japanese artist invited her to his studio in Kobe to exhibit his work.

Her parents decided she could find even more success in California – where extended family already lived – and moved in 2020. Clara attends a special program at Edison High in Huntington Beach. Her 10-year-old brother Davi, an avid football player, goes to Eader Elementary.

Clara and Davi interact in typical sibling fashion. Recently, their father helped Clara climb a ladder to Davi’s treehouse, a feat that both exhilarated and scared her. Once she came downstairs, her brother laughed at her shyness and shouted. Without an ounce of insult, Clara laughed heartily at Davi’s teasing.

Like most life stories, Clara’s began with her parents. After high school, Genovesi left Sao Paulo, Brazil to study in Italy. There she met her future husband, Woods, who has a disabled adult daughter from a previous marriage. They started a company that customizes wheelchairs.

The couple welcomed Clara in 2006. At first, the cute blond baby seemed perfectly healthy. Then, around the age of seven months, they noticed that Clara was not achieving the intended goals and was not opening her right hand.

Initially, they assumed she suffered from muscular dystrophy like Woods’ eldest, Eldina. But an MRI showed something else, equally devastating.

“I started crying,” recalls Genovesi, 40. “The doctor said, ‘You are right to cry. She can’t do anything. His life will be so difficult.

Despite this tactless and terrible message, Woods and Genovesi remained determined that their daughter enjoy a fulfilling existence. They immersed her in therapies designed to stimulate the senses and improve brain plasticity.

Indeed, Woods and Genovesi would prove the doctor’s grim prognosis wrong.

“We always considered our situation to be normal,” said Woods, 53. “We just accept it. We don’t dwell on Clara’s disabilities.

Clara engages animatedly in the conversation, understanding every word spoken – gesturing, laughing and moaning to make her point. She uses a cellphone app that lets her type in a few letters to verbalize her most common statements and questions — for example, “Do you want to meet my guinea pigs?” (The beloved Chocolate and Lulu reside in a spacious rear enclosure.)

With the help of her parents, who translate her self-proclaimed sign language, Clara says she feels “100%” when she paints, freed from focusing on the things she can’t do.

Her moods are reflected in her paintings, Clara said. At the start of the coronavirus crisis, she painted “Locked Down Feelings” in browns and mustard yellow, an illustration of claustrophobia and chaos. After the death of her grandfather, she creates her melancholic series “Paradise”. But most of his work is cheerful, full of hearts and smiles and even glitter.

On the side, Clara decorates jeans and sports shoes. She also sells her own paint-splattered t-shirts.

Jaret King, a delivery man for FedEx, bought and framed an AC/DC shirt Clara once wore.

“I came across Clara’s Facebook page,” the Lancaster, Pennsylvania resident said. “I was immediately seduced”

He later bought a painting and four prints.

“Clara shows herself through her paintings,” King said. “She’s a great artist. It’s so cool how she turned her disability into something positive.

Clara’s works can be viewed on her website, clarawoodscollection.com.

About Marie A. Gingrich

Check Also

On National Eucharistic Revival Launch Day, St. Matthew’s Cathedral Holds Corpus Christi Procession Through DC’s Streets – Catholic Standard

Parishioners at St. Matthew the Apostle Cathedral in Washington, DC took their faith to the …