Controversial art piece auctioned off to support sex trafficking survivors

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A work of art recently displayed downtown was considered controversial by some in Wichita. Others considered it empowering. Now the piece is being auctioned off to help sex trafficking survivors. 

Artist Juli Saga explained she painted “Lotus” to stand with and support survivors of sex trafficking and sexual violence. 

“I painted this with sex workers in mind — and just women in general — and celebrating our bodies and fighting back against misogyny and rape culture,” Saga said. 

“I’ve never been in the experiences that they have so I don’t want to take up that space,” Saga said. “I just want to like help elevate them and help give them like, just help them if needed.” 

Now her art will be used to help survivors. Saga’s self-portrait is being auctioned off to raise money to support ICT SOS, a local nonprofit that supports survivors of sex trafficking. 

“We’ve recently been able to start doing direct services through the advocacy program because there’s lots of stuff out there for the kiddos,” ICT SOS Adult Advocacy Services Coordinator Liz Upton said, “but there’s not a lot for adults. Something happens when people turn 18. It’s like almost empathy dries up.” 

Charissa Wall was the first to bid on the painting. She hopes to have the piece hang in her living room one day. 

“A message can be brought out of every piece of art and it’s only controversial if you make it controversial,” Wall said. 

The painting hung in the downtown Chainlink Art Gallery and caused concern for some parents with children, but Wall is not worried. 

“She’s a female. She knows what a female body looks like,” Wall said. “She looks in the mirror every day. It’s not a big deal.” 

Saga is grateful her art is starting conversations. 

“Anybody that’s upset about it or that feels that they can degrade somebody because they show their body or because they have sex or however they are — they need to have a self-reflecting conversation of why they think these things.” 

The painting will be available for bidding at Mulberry Art Gallery in Revolusia until Dec. 17. 

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