Tori Sutton, Stratford Gazette
Ten years ago, Lindsay Clark was in a terrible car accident.
It was a beautiful June day and the 17-year-old was driving back from a family gathering with her boyfriend.
A momentary blackout caused by a then-unknown heart condition caused her to steer off the road and into a ditch, hitting a culvert at highway speeds.
Clark smashed her head off the steering wheel of the old station wagon, breaking her nose and cheekbones, and causing a catastrophic brain injury.
Four times in eight days doctors attempted to convince her family to take her off life support and donate her organs, telling them if she survived she would exist an a persistent vegetative state.
She would never laugh again. She would never interact with humans. She would never be the same.
Her family refused, and after eight weeks in a coma and eight months in the hospital, and a battle against a serious infection, her mother Laura took her home, where she began the second round of rearing – teaching Lindsay how to speak, how to feed herself, how to brush her teeth, how to mind her manners.
A decade later, Clark continues to defy the odds by doing just about everything doctors insisted she never would, including walk, an act she has been practicing with assistance.
And just weeks ago, she reached another milestone when her artwork was included in the juried Perth-Huron Exhibition at Gallery Stratford, which opened July 8.
Her acrylic on canvas piece, Tropical Impressions, was one of 30 pieces chosen for the exhibition out of over 100 submitted artworks.
“I have never had a piece of my art in a gallery for everyone to see,” said Clark, in a recent interview at the gallery. “I love it.”
Clark, now 27, has always had artistic tendencies. In high school she enjoyed creating, and had three pieces on display at St. Michael in her Grade 12 year.
But her interest has only returned in the last few years, thanks to a kind volunteer, Betty Dubrick, who comes to her home once a week to help her paint.
“It’s really awesome to know it’s my hand, with Betty’s assistance, that’s doing these beautiful pieces of art,” she said.
Like most aspects of Clark’s life, her return to art hasn’t been easy. The nature of her brain injury often makes her reluctant to participate in new activities.
When she picked up the brush again, the thought of attacking a blank canvas was daunting.
It was something Dubrick led her through gently, starting her off with abstract pieces though Clark admits those aren’t her favourite – she prefers her landscapes.
The decision to submit pieces for the exhibition came at Dubrick’s urging.
She too submitted pieces but none of hers was chosen, while her student received one of the coveted spots.
Inclusion in the show has lifted Clark’s spirits and made her seriously consider her artistic future.
She’s received an offer from a someone to sponsor a solo show at a gallery of her choice.
Her mother has also spoke to gallery owners in Toronto who believe Clark has commercial value.
The family is in the process of preparing limited edition prints for sale.
A buyer is also tentatively lined up for the piece on display at Gallery Stratford, someone with a unique tie to Clark – the woman’s father, who has since passed away, was a volunteer driver who often took Clark to appointments.
So what does Clark love the most about painting?
“I like looking at the finished piece and saying, ‘Wow, I did that.’ ” she said. “I love art.”
Undeniably motivated, Clark has her eye on a few others things besides her art career.
She’s interested in meeting with someone who would consider ghostwriting her story to combat the stigma surrounding brain injuries and the stereotypes people hold about teenagers and car accidents like hers.
“People assume I must have been wasted, or depressed or suicidal just because I was a teenager,” she said, of the cause of her accident, which was actually due to her heart condition.
She’s eager to continue physiotherapy to work towards her goal of walking unassisted. She dreams of one day being able to go for a jog.
“I want to be able to get up on my own two feet and dance.”