Juliana Naufel is a Brazilian visual communicator who uses her passion for life to inspire powerful messages that she exposes through her embroidered mixed media works. Naufel's artworks can be found in a number of private collections around the world, including The Wonders of Women Museum, USA, The Kanyer Art Collection, USA, Taube Museum of Art, USA and Museu das Bandeiras, Brazil. Naufel had three national solo exhibitions: one in 2022 at the Museum of Image and Sound of Santos, Brazil, a virtual exhibition curated by Katia Canton in 2021 and another in 2018 at Galeria Alcindo Moreira Filho, Brazil. She was a longlisted artist of Women United Art Prize 2021, and was awarded 3rd place at the SeeingWomen 2020 Awards by Photos de Femmes (France). She has participated in multiple artist residencies in Brazil and has been exhibited in more than 40 group shows in ten different countries. Her work was recently shown in Times Square in New York City as a tribute to her grandmother. The artist earned her MA Degree in Art Therapy from NAPE and her BA in Visual Arts from São Paulo's State University.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in art?

I always found it easier to express my thoughts, feelings, and share my ideas with others through my creativity, whether it was creating something visual or performing music, dancing, or acting. When I was a high school senior, I was kind of all over the place and wasn’t really sure which major I was going to pursue. In Brazil, you have to pick a major before starting your undergraduate course, and then you study 4-6 focused subjects around your major. I had several options, and my mom was going through breast cancer treatment, so my focus was not on getting into university right away. I applied for different courses such as psychology, chemical engineering, and visual arts. I was very involved in musical theater, and my favorite part of it was actually creating the scenic designs and costumes. When I wasn’t rehearsing, working behind the scenes for school productions, or playing the piano, I would always be visiting museums or painting. I guess my thought process back then was that having a BFA would allow me to work in different areas that interested me, but I had no idea I would end up becoming an Artpreneur and working as an artist.

Your artwork often conveys powerful messages. Could you share the story behind one of your pieces that holds significant meaning to you?

It is hard to pick just one piece, but at this moment I would have to say “Find Joy in the Little Things.” It is a portrait of my grandma with some of her best friends when she was in her early 20s. My grandma is a central figure in my life and my art practice. She taught me so much about navigating life with affection as a guide. She was a bright light and one of the most loving persons I’ve ever met. She passed away in late 2022, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. The first year of grieving was really hard on me, and I had to take a step back to take care of my mental health. I was still creating, but mostly for myself and not for my art practice. How could I share powerful messages with others if I wasn't able to see the light at the end of the tunnel? Slowly things started to get better, and I went back to my art. I decided to work on a new series of her photos and take a leap of faith into a more colorful direction, as a way of also bringing back the color into my own life. I realized that the best way that I could honor her legacy was by leading a life led by love and finding joy along the way. This work is all about this grieving journey and accepting that even in the hardest days, we can still have tiny joyful moments, and there’s beauty in the dualities we experience as humans too. Last, but not least, I had this work presented on a huge screen in Times Square last March as a way to celebrate my grandma’s birthday and legacy. Just like for me, New York was also her favorite city, and there was no better way to have this dream of mine of seeing my art in such an iconic place than doing an homage for her.

Can you describe your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece?

I found that my creative process has changed quite a bit now that I’m bringing more color to my work. I don’t usually work with sketches when it comes to my mixed media embroidered pieces, and I’m usually led by my intuition when creating. The first step is going through my collection of vintage photos and selecting the ones that I’m feeling more drawn to. Since I’m not working with the originals anymore, I have to scan the photos and print them. At this moment, I’m choosing to work mostly with impressions on couché paper if I’m going to use oil pastels on it or printing them on canvas if I want to paint with acrylics on them. After I have the impressions ready to go, I usually start working on multiple pieces at once, coloring elements of the background with colors that I feel belong to the photo or that will help convey the feeling that I get when I look at them. As I feel that the color part is done, I take a moment to connect with the work and try to capture the message that it wants to spread to the world. Sometimes, it’s crystal clear the affirmation/message I want to embroider on the piece, other times I have to go back to a notebook with quotes/messages/affirmations to see if any of them would work with the photo, and other times I have to journal and even meditate a little about it. The most important thing for me when giving new narratives to these vintage photographs is that in a way I am honoring and uplifting the people that were portrayed there. As soon as I have decided the message, I get out a tracing paper to play around and pick where and how I am going to embroider the text. I then poke holes into the paper/canvas and pick the color(s) of the thread. After I am done embroidering the text, I move to creating patterns and embroidering other details to complete the piece. I usually sign on the back of the work, and when it comes to framing, I prefer having a double glass frame so the viewers and collectors can see the back of the embroidery too!

Embroidery plays a prominent role in your mixed media works. What draws you to this medium, and how does it contribute to the narrative of your pieces?Embroidery has been such an important and powerful healing tool for my journey, and since 2016, I simply can’t pull away from it because it helps me cope and navigate life with a little more ease. At first, what drew me to this medium was the idea of subverting the use of a technique that for centuries was present as a way to control women to stay inside the domestic sphere. For me, it felt brilliant to reclaim embroidery as a way of pointing out the changes in our society and taking something that for such a long time was oppressive to give voice not only to myself but others. Embroidery can be seen as something beautiful, subtle, feminine, and yet it is a medium of much strength – you’re constantly poking holes with a needle, in my case, you’re actually perforating paper to write a new story, and with thread, you’re suturing wounds, narratives, and creating scars in the fabric/paper/photo. After a couple of years of exploring embroidery more in a political way, I started to realize the healing aspects of this medium, especially when it comes to embroidering photographs. For me, embroidering photos allowed me to defy time and change the past by making amends with it. With the use of text and embroidery, I was able to create new narratives for those frozen, forgotten moments in time, sharing my hopes and dreams and embracing change in an empowering way, merging something unexpected with those vintage photographs that wanted to be seen.

In addition to creating art, you also hold a degree in Art Therapy. How does this background inform your artistic practice, and do you see a connection between art and healing in your work?

My degree in Art Therapy was a result and an extension of my art practice. There’s something extraordinary that happens when you’re embroidering photos. You are altering the plasticity of your brain by constantly saying to yourself the message that you’re embroidering, you are being able to reprogram your subconscious mind through an active meditation as you are repeating a mantra and embroidering it into reality, creating something new out of something that already existed. Art making has the ability to help us cope with trauma, and my art practice was one of the most effective ways that I found to move forward in life when being a victim of gender violence and feeling empowered to create my own story as opposed to getting stuck into what has happened in my past. For years I didn’t acknowledge the healing aspect of my art practice, but it was still there. As I became more and more focused on inner work, I started to see the connections between art and healing, and how my art practice was helping me transform my reality. With the workshops that I was hosting, I saw the effects that embroidering photos had on others, and with that came the responsibility to study and be better prepared to guide others with the use of creativity as wellbeing and pursuing a degree in Art Therapy. As an Art Therapist, I now have “shortcuts” and more tools on my belt to assist me when using my creativity to navigate life, and I feel that I have more clarity over the “whys” in my work, but at the same time, I feel that my art practice is my greatest ally and source of inspiration for my work as an Art Therapist because if it weren’t for my own journey creating, I wouldn’t have chosen this path or pursued this degree.

What inspired you to create Photo Trouvée Magazine, and how does it reflect your artistic vision?

Twiggy Boyer, an amazing mixed-media collage artist and my art bestie, had the idea of creating Photo Trouvée Magazine and invited me to join along. Back in 2019-2020, there weren’t that many places and opportunities where you could find artists using or being inspired by found, vintage photos. Many times we didn’t feel like our work belonged, and at the end of the day, we longed for connection with like-minded creatives. Our magazine is a place of celebration and belonging, where people from different backgrounds, career levels, and practices are seen and know that their art is valued and legitimate. For me, as a human, as an artist, as a business owner, and co-founder, one of my core values is community, and supporting an environment where people get to connect and be uplifted while having an aesthetic experience is seeing my artistic vision and mission coming to life.

Can you share a memorable experience or discovery that influenced the direction of the magazine?When Twiggy and I first talked about creating the magazine, we were unsure if we would have enough artists to do it or if people were interested in something so niche. Back then, we knew very few artists working with found photos, but still, we decided to give it a try. Photo Trouvée Magazine is the very first publication and platform focused specifically on found photo art (meaning art created and inspired by vintage, analog, found, or family photos). We had nothing to compare it to and ended up being pioneers when it came to creating it, giving us complete freedom to do it the way we thought it would work, being guided by our own personal preferences when it comes to designing it, creating a visual identity, and mission for it. I think that something remarkable for both of us is seeing a steady growth of our community these past four years! We have worked with over 430 artists so far, many who worked on multiple projects with us, and our community has grown to over 20k people!! We never thought we would find so many like-minded artists and lovers of vintage ephemera.

How do you select the vintage found photographs featured in Photo Trouvée, and what criteria do you look for?

We host open calls for our projects and also invite a few artists for other opportunities, usually, they are members of our community or have worked with us in the past. Two out of the three magazines that we publish a year do not have a theme, and when selecting the artists for the publication, we always try to find a common thread to curate it in a way that somehow creates a narrative throughout the whole experience, and of course, when it’s a themed issue, we pick the works that we think are the best fit for that edition. The first thing that we look for is if the artist followed the guidelines of the open call - when you’re reviewing hundreds of works, it’s important to have all the information that was asked for in the way that will make reviewing the application the easiest for the people that are selecting the works - even labeling files as it was asked can make a difference when choosing an artist over the other. We are also looking for a cohesive body of work. Applicants can submit 3-8 images, and it's so helpful to see works from the same series or that share similarity on the theme/style/technique used. We are also looking for works that are well-lit, well-cropped, and that don’t show the background unless it is extremely necessary (an installation, for example). Because we have a limited time to design the magazine, everything that is ready to go will be prioritized over files that we would have to work on to be able to put it in the magazine. Last but not least, we are always open to showcasing works using different mediums and always get excited when seeing something new or unexpected with the use of found photos. As long as the work fits our mission and is using or being inspired by found/family/vintage photos, we’re happy to share it with our community.

What role do you believe nostalgia plays in contemporary art, particularly within the context of found photography?

I believe that nostalgia plays an important role in contemporary art, as it is an invitation to take a moment to look back to the past, to honor it and see how it has shaped us as a society, acknowledging what was good, what we miss from it, and what we can learn from it but also what could be changed moving forward so we don’t repeat patterns that are not serving us anymore. One of the incredible aspects of works using found photography is that they usually find a way of merging past-present-future together, inviting us to have new perceptions of the world we live in and of time itself.

What is inspiring you at the moment?

I am kind of amazed by the flowers that I found in New York this spring, and nature has been inspiring me a lot lately. Growing up in Brazil, I didn’t have such a defined change of seasons, and now that I’ve been spending more and more time in the US, experiencing the different seasons is something new and exciting, and that is also teaching me a lot about navigating the different seasons of life that we go through. Everything colorful has also been a source of inspiration. For a long time, I was working in black and white and adding little color to what I was doing. While grieving, it felt like my whole life was black and white and I couldn’t see anything else. Just bringing more color to my days and to my art practice has been wonderful to invite back the joy that I used to feel. Finding new hobbies and remembering old ones have also been key to this process of reconnecting to myself after a harsh chapter and that are helping me to feel inspired to co-create my life and to keep creating art.