Melanie Brewster thrives on staying busy—the Florida native has multiple bachelor’s degrees, a master’s, and a PhD in counseling psychology. But between all that education and landing a prestigious position as a Columbia University psych professor, Melanie’s also managed to find time to keep her creative dreams alive, too: running a jewelry and art line There Not There.
She’s been at it since 2002, and lately her work has transitioned from repurposed jewelry to powerful feminist collages. That might seem like a curveball to you, but if you think about it like Melanie does, it all makes sense: “My academic research is focused on how stigma and discrimination impacts mental health, particularly for women and for gender-expansive and queer folks, so my recent collage series touches on these themes. In 2016, I started making collages as a way to illustrate the disorientation and pain that many women were bearing silently. They portray women in athletic power poses, but their heads have been replaced with botanical elements, like flowers or vines.” For her, There Not There is a powerful tool for her own personal mental health, too. As she says. “Doing something physical with my hands like cutting paper or opening jump rings is essential to quieting thoughts. I believe there is a stillness to creative practice that we should all embrace.”