Art Brings Healing to Survivors of Sexual Abuse

by April Klimley
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Sexual abuse has grabbed the headlines in recent years. But what has that done for
survivors–aside from financial settlements?

Adam Stewart, an American artist and global nomad living in Laos, has come up with a unique answer. Over five years ago, he began producing watercolor paintings for survivors of abuse based on their favorite flower with an eye, resembling their own eye, snuggled within the flower.

"The idea is for the person to feel beautiful and perfect," Stewart says. "It's part of the healing process."

Stewart, himself a survivor, interviews each prospective subject himself. He makes sure they are in therapy for what happened to them and that they feel that this type of painting would provide healing. He takes time to work with them to find the perfect flower before he begins putting together the painting.

"These people go unheard by society," Stewart notes. "I wanted them to be seen as beautiful and their perfect selves. I can do that by painting them as a flower they love."

He adds he doesn’t want to show trauma in the paintings or give visibility to the abuse undergone. “Flowers are almost a prayer: A spiritual way for survivors to manifest themselves,” he says

He named the series “We See You” to reflect that manifestation. It allows survivors to come forward—not in the trauma they endured—but as the perfect persons they are today.

Even though Stewart has only done a few of these portraits, he already has a waiting list. And one of his subjects last year agreed to have their portrait shown—anonymously –on the Internet’s Ethereum blockchain, where Stewart himself also displays his own watercolor and Sumie painting Japanese watercolor art.

The survivor portrait is entitled “We see you, butterfly.” It features a stalk of the fragrant butterfly bush covered with its delightful small blue flowers. An eye is embedded within the blooms looking out at the world calmly.

Word of these portraits has spread so far that Stewart already has a waiting list of people who want similar paintings. But he is reluctant to take on more than one or two portraits like this a year. For one thing, it takes away from his own watercolor and Sumie painting. But even more than that, he says,” While I’m doing these, it takes a toll. I take time with each person to decide what flower is right. This is a melding of art and psychology.”

However, eventually, Stewart would like to set up an online gallery to display these portraits anonymously. He doesn’t charge for the paintings. But if any are posted on the blockchain like “We See You, Butterfly Bush” and sold, the profits are distributed three ways in agreement with the survivor. Part goes to the survivor. Another portion is kept for posting additional portraits in the series, and a very small amount is used to buy more paper/paints and goes to the artist, who makes a modest living teaching English abroad.

The success and uniqueness of this project have prompted some observers to ask Stewart if he’d like to collaborate with a larger organization to expand this work. So far, he is adamantly against this. “I’ve always remained independent,” he says. “I don’t want
this to require giving out personal names or details. I want to continue it on my terms. Besides, I’m a limited resource.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not the only cause-related project Stewart, only 40, has led over the past few years. Soon after moving to Laos, he began accumulating supplies and food to take to a school in a village north of him in the mountains. 

And this past year, he raised over $40,000 through a blockchain sale of a painting entitled “2Tulips,” which he donated to three longevity researchers.

But although both of those projects were successful, this one, in a way, stands out. “We See You” is unique. In coming up with it and making it a reality, Stewart has created a world where no one had gone before. He understood that the need for healing from these traumas requires more than financial compensation or therapy. “I feel that art can heal all wounds.” And judging from the success of the portraits he has painted so far, in this case, that is certainly true.

About Adam Stewart:

Adam Stewart is a nomad American watercolor and Sumi (Japanese ink) artist/poet teaching English while residing in Laos. Since age eight, Adam’s passion was to be an artist but was discouraged by colorblindness. He filled multiple passports as a traveling, homeless backpacker throughout Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines.  Six years ago, while working as an English headteacher at a school in Laos, Adam began focusing on perfecting his real addiction/obsession: his art. He has been a watercolor artist by trade full-time for three years. In 2020, Adam entered the Crypto world, conceiving and executing his #NFTsLongevityProjects. Today, he works as a full-time watercolor artist and hosts social audio Twitter Spaces to help other NFT artists.

For more info on Adam Stewart’s NFTs, go to:

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