Hey there! I know I’ve been a little absent these last weeks, but I couldn’t left you without the third interview with a contemporary artist. This time with the Brazilian embroidery and mixed media artist Juliana Naufel I hope you enjoy it!
Hi Women’n Art Blog, thank you so much for having me here! My name is Juliana Naufel and I am an embroidery and mixed media artist based in Santos, Brazil.
Do you remember how was your first contact with art?
The first memory of my life is actually an art related one! I was 2 years and 4 months and I was at a day nursery painting with marker ink tubes diluted in water – I remember having much fun during the process and it’s crazy that I actually remember the moment I was creating this painting that it’s the only one left from when I was a kid. I know that even before that I would grab crayons and anything that I could for doodling every paper and white board available near me. Growing up I also remember attending some art shows around the city – my first memory visiting a museum was at Pinacoteca de São Paulo, where there was a Turma da Monica exhibition going on. This was a really popular Brazilian Comics series created by Maurício de Souza. The show happened back in 2001, when I was 5 years old – the images presented were reproductions of famous artworks by Monet, Manet, Rembrandt, Da Vinci among others, where the main characters of these masterpieces were replaced by the characters of the comics. I must say that even though I loved drawing and expressing myself through visual arts, during my childhood I was more drawn to music.
When you knew that you wanted to be an artist?
It was quite late to be honest. Growing up I thought I would do something creative but I was leaning more towards being a professional pianist or a Fashion Designer. When I was 14 I was diagnosed with severe depression and during my treatment I came across Art Therapy, so that’s when I started creating art once again. I had a huge limiting belief that making a living as an Artist was not an option, so I wouldn’t even call myself an artist before 2018 – just an art enthusiast or student struggling with Imposter’s Syndrome.
Who encouraged you to pursue an artistic career ?
Nobody encouraged me nor discouraged me to pursue an artistic career. I come from a family of Academics and Dentists, and during my senior year of High School I was still ill and my mom was diagnosed with Cancer, so I was more focused on being there for her instead of starting my undergraduate studies right after school. I always had multiple interests and I was having a hard time choosing what I’d like to study. Some of my options back then were majoring in Psychology, Chemical Engineer or Visual Arts (I loved working with set designs for musical plays and it was something that was kind of connected to it, plus Art Therapy was a huge part of my life back then). My parents were worried that I wouldn’t be able to ‘find a job’ or that pursuing any work related to the Arts was going to be quite challenging, however we were going through a lot as a family and it felt right for me and for them that I enrolled in a Bachelor and Teaching Degree in Visual Arts, once there was always the possibility of changing majors or doing something else if I saw that this was not what I wanted to do anymore.
What artists inspired you when you were young? And today?
I feel that more than artists there were certain art movements that inspired me when I was young. I was blown away by Impressionism and pretty much every avant-garde movement that came after it, however, I must say that Monet, Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo had a huge impact on my life as a kid and a teenager. As for today, it’s tremendously hard to pick only a few artists. I feel really inspired by women artists: Twiggy Boyer, Ekaterina Popova, Rosana Paulino, Beth Moysés, Louise Bourgeois, Hilma AF Klint, Danielle Krysa, Judy Chicago, Carmen Mardonéz, Brandi Hofer, Claudia Casarino, Katie Kaapcke, Leticia Imai, Erika Dantas, Carol Cherubini, and so many other artists who are incredible human beings and create marvelous artworks, but as I said, the list could go on and on and on.
Where have you studied art?
I have a Bachelor and a Teaching Degree in Visual Arts by São Paulo ‘s State University (UNESP) Institute of Arts, São Paulo, Brazil. I’m currently finishing a MA ‘s in Art Therapy by Universidade Cândido Mendes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When you started to get interested in Art Therapy? And how it influences your work?
During High School I was getting treatment for Depression and Art Therapy along with other tools were there for me. I started expressing myself through paintings and drawings once again and was really grateful for the opportunity of using art as a tool to help me heal. Art Therapy was one of the reasons that I decided to pursue a degree in Visual Arts, however during my undergraduate studies I lost interest and fell in love with art education. Even though I didn’t see my artistic practice back then as a cathartic experience that was helping me heal from traumas and process what was going on with my life, Art Therapy was present once more in my life even without realizing. It was only in late 2019 that I realized that embroidering photographs was a healing tool. Last year it became clear for me that I should focus even more and study Art Therapy to include Embroidery on Photographs as a powerful tool for people that are committed to their healing and self-knowledge journey.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m honestly easily inspired. For me inspiration can be anywhere: in nature, having conversations with people I love, eating or drinking something new, learning new subjects or trying something new just for the fun of it. I’m truly inspired by music, musical theater and found photos as well. Traveling is also a huge source of inspiration once I feel that I always want to meet new people, learn more about different cultures and places. For me inspiration is all about us being willing to see life through different perspectives.
How do you discover the power of embroidery in art?
My first contact with textile art and embroidery in contemporary art was with Beth Moysés, Rosana Paulino and Rosana Palazyan – these three incredible Brazilian artists approached embroidery through different lenses to discuss gender violence and gender inequalities only by subverting one of the techniques that for a long time serve as a way of oppression for women. I found it was brilliant what they were doing, but it never crossed my mind that I would actually become an embroidery artist. I loved exploring the relationship between art & gender and from the very start my work has been about women. In the middle of my undergraduate studies I was feeling overwhelmed and embroidery started coming back – it was clear for me that it was time to learn this technique just for fun. In 2016 I started embroidering textiles and I had a huge breakthrough in my healing journey by embroidering a series of written textiles related to a very traumatic experience of my life. I kept embroidering and I realized that it was a really powerful way to bring new perspectives on themes that I wanted to address through my practice and there was also something really powerful about embroidering someone else’s memories when I chose to start work with embroidered found and family photographs. Embroidery has helped me reclaim my voice after so many years feeling like I didn’t belong and that no one was listening to what I had to say. It has been such an effective tool to do inner work and it is one of the reasons that I am obsessed with it. It’s been 4 years that I started teaching embroidery on photos for teenagers and adults – mostly women – and in each group at least one person falls in love with this possibility of rewriting a story and giving new meanings to memories. I was aware that the technique was helping my own journey but seeing changes in other people’s lives made me realize that this is a magical technique and that one of my missions here is to spread the healing aspect of embroidery on photographs.
When did you have the idea of using embroidery in photographs?
When I decided that I wanted to start embroidering, I enrolled in an embroidery course. During one of the modules one of the prompts was to embroider a photograph and even though it was the embroidered vintage photo by one of my mentors was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen, the experience was terrifying for me and it took me almost a year to embroider a photograph again! But once I decided I should give it another try I couldn’t stop anymore!
I saw that you’re preparing some collective exhibitions for this year, and also a solo exhibition. Can you tell us anything about them?
Absolutely! I’ve been quite busy with several group shows happening all around the world and also my solo show! A common theme of these group shows is healing through art and supporting one another through challenging times. Right now you can find my work on view in the group shows “State of Repair” by The Vacant Museum, USA, and “Riveter” by The Wonders of Women Museum, USA. Starting the 28th April “Different Brushstrokes” is happening in Belgium and April 30th I have the opening of the show “Born Free Live Wild”, Canada. Anytime now “Mostra MuSEU”, co-curated by The Covid Art Museum will take place in the streets of São Paulo, Brazil! I feel truly grateful to have my work featured in such powerful group shows that are happening both virtually and in person.
And about your solo exhibition ‘When you’re a woman which is open for online visitation until august 2021?
One of my projects for last year was having an in person solo show at The Museum of Image and Sound in Santos, Brazil. Due to the pandemic, this show was postponed several times and I understood that I should try a different approach, having it virtually for now. “When You’re a Woman”, curated by Katia Canton, takes you into a journey of 50 embroidered works created between 2017 and 2021. It’s an homage and celebration of women and the presented works are divided in 4 areas that are intertwined: Affection, Resistance, Hope and Magic. Everything of the show is presented both in Portuguese and English and you can visit the exhibition until 11th August here.
Did the pandemic affect your work? If yes, how?
Absolutely. Since the pandemic started I feel that I’m being more creative in other aspects of my life. I’m not creating as many artworks as before, however since the lockdown I started I co-funded an art publication -Photo Trouvée Magazine- I wrote a book that is coming out June – Stitching Photographs: a Powerful Act – and even though I still embroider photographs, I’m taking off the pressure of creating a certain number of artworks like before. I’m listening more to my needs and trying to be gentler with myself and my art practice.
When it comes to aesthetics, I believe the pandemic encouraged me to explore more the use of colors and visual elements that I embroider in the photos, until 2019 the inserted text was the most important thing of my pieces, and now I feel that I’m giving myself permission to try new things and to add more elements to the photos too. The themes of the embroidered photos have also slightly changed: right now I’m more focused on spreading messages of hope and affection, as well empowering messages through the use of affirmation as a way to heal and to feel that we belong.
For more information about Juliana’s work:
All the images were kindly provided by the artist.