As a child, South Florida artist Lori Pratico did not understand why people told her to be ladylike – and not to make a mess. It just didn't jive. Ultimately she found a way to embrace her true self through visual art. Now she intersects that expression as a self-taught artist with a feminist message to uplift young women.
Pratico is the executive director of Girl Noticed, a community-based program dedicated to encouraging young women to discover themselves and their value through community art projects. To carry out this mission, Pratico guides groups of women to paint or draw murals of inspiring people.
In collaboration with ArtServe and Holy Cross Hospital, Pratico’s work is now being featured in a woman-centered exhibition titled “Femme Empowered” at the Dorothy Mangurian Comprehensive Women’s Center at the Holy Cross HealthPlex in Fort Lauderdale. It features six paintings that span over a 15 year period of art and female empowerment. Her work is also accompanied by that of Nerissa Balland, a fellow South Floridian artist. The exhibit will be on display through July 10.
We spoke to Pratico on Sundial about the exhibit and her work.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
WLRN: At what point did you decide you wanted to start doing art?
PRATICO: When I was five years old and they threw a smock over my head and put me in front of an easel with finger paints. My home and my upbringing were very tidy and very 'you shouldn't stand out. You shouldn't draw attention to yourself.' You know, being ladylike meant really just kind of melting into the background. So this was an area in my life where I could stand out and be a mess and be messy and get paint on me and express myself that I wasn't finding anywhere else.
Where did you start to formulate as an artist your style and what you're trying to do?
Yeah, it was kind of a progression. I wanted to do a series of portraits and I chose about 10 to 15 years ago to do a series of 35 portraits of females with tattoos. And at the time that was not something you normally saw, a female with tattoos. And that turned into a series called "Dare to be different." And it was about women that had pink hair and tattoos and just really owned it. They owned who they were and I was kind of living vicariously through them because that was not me. I wanted to be them and I was more just kind of "mom" you know, you're ordinary.
So that was really my defining moment of when I realized my work had a voice because people were getting what I was trying to say through those portraits they were seeing. I had senior citizens approaching me and saying, "Wow, if I saw this girl on the street, I'd walk right by her and probably judge her. But I see your portrait and I see a beautiful woman.”
And when I saw that I could relay that kind of a message through a painting. I said, “Okay, what do I want to say?” And I'm gonna say it in a big way. And that's what led me to the murals and to Girl Noticed.
I remember studying in art school ... they were putting art in hospitals because of what it could do to help with patients. Why do you think it's important to have art in that kind of space?
You know, being a woman is scary. The things that we have to do medically, mammograms and all. And you know all the different kinds of things that we would need to take care of our bodies. We don't talk about it enough. We don't even with each other. Sometimes we don't talk about it enough. So they're creating a safe space for women.
And you know they have a spa there, it's a spa-like atmosphere. And they said 'hey, we need artwork, we need a gallery.' How amazing is that, you know? To me, it's just saying, we're going to bring this human factor into what's otherwise a sterile environment and try to make a woman as comfortable as we can possibly make her so that she's going to come back for that follow up appointment. She's going to come back and take care of herself.