one dot, one survivor

one dot, one survivor

Michael Hogan

David Ilan is well known as a celebrity portrait artist, having captured the images of such well known people as former “Will and Grace” star Eric McCormack and the cast of “Seinfeld” using a painstaking process known as pointillism. In his latest project, Points With Purpose, Ilan takes on a much more serious subject: rape and sexual abuse.

Using pointillism, a technique using hundreds of thousands of individual dots, Ilan hopes to paint a portrait of a “strong, beautiful, and recovered woman.” Each individual dot in the portrait will represent a real woman who has faced the horrors of rape and sexual abuse, all working together to form a work of art.

On the project’s website,, those wanting to participate can join the project by leaving their name or an alias and becoming a part of the painting. Participants are also welcome to post their stories on the web site. Ilan hopes that “maybe some of the survivors’ stories will give hope to the people who can still be considered victims.”

Having known two victims of rape, Ilan has always been concerned with the subject, but it wasn’t until he saw a performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” that he decided to do something about it. He says of the show, “part of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ tells stories of women who have been raped. The show is very moving and inspiring. It inspired me to take a break from the drawings that I normally do and put together a project that can help people.”

From afar, the project will appear as the image of a woman “who could be anyone, because that is the reality of rape.” But, when viewed up close each individual dot can be viewed and the magnitude of the crime and its effects becomes apparent, thousands upon thousands of real tragedies begin to take shape.

“The part of the crime that is rarely discussed lies in the aftermath of the violence itself – a loss of identity and sexuality,” Ilan said.

All of the women in the project will have survived that initial violence, but may not have regained that identity or sexuality yet. The thousands upon thousands of dots in the drawing will represent women in all stages of recovery, from victim to survivor.

“Some of the people may have already made the transformation and some may be struggling to move past their victimization,” Ilan said of the participants. “Hopefully, one day all of the dots will represent only one type of person, the survivor.”

At UMass Boston both the Counseling Center, located on the second floor of the Quinn Administration Building, and the Women’s Center, located on the third floor of the Campus Center, offer help to victims of rape and sexual abuse. Literature and assistance on these and many other subjects that women may be facing can be found in both locations.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Women’s Center will be showing the film “Defending Our Lives” on Oct. 22 and 23. “Defending Our Lives” is an Academy Award winning documentary that tells the story of a group of women who fought back against their batterers.