ELIZABETH, NJ — Multicolored swirls and fluid, shape-less strokes are at the center of “The Clown,” a graphic artwork created by Elizabeth artist Suree Minnatee, which at first glance vaguely resembles a man’s face. But the red, white and black swirls leave the content of the art up to the eye of the beholder. Does the image actually portray a clown? Is there something else going on here?
These are the questions local art patrons can ask themselves while viewing the new “Amalgamation” gallery at the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, where Minnatee’s work is being displayed through Friday, Oct. 23. With “The Clown,” as with most of Minnatee’s graphic designs, it takes time to appreciate what you’re seeing.
“In the back of my mind, in a lot of my artwork I lean towards surrealist. You don’t know what you’re really going to get, and it’s mostly distorted. It’s like a combination of surreal and abstract,” said Minnatee, who has been featured in several other local galleries over the past few years. “Some people get it and some people don’t. It’s more like I make the art and then I share it with you, and you can interpret it the way you want to. Or sometimes people see different things in the artwork that I didn’t even see, they’ll point out things they think I did on purpose and I’ll say it was just a happy mistake.”
“Amalgamation,” featuring 10 large pieces, doesn’t have a strict theme or underlying message, but the surreal and experimental nature of her work is a common characteristic. The collection is titled “Amalgamation,” said Minnatee, because she enjoys mixing different artistic styles and techniques, resulting in unusual combinations.
“It’s really not themed. Some exhibits have a theme or a storyline behind them, but this is really just a mixture of random pieces, that have a mixture of different mediums,” said Minnatee. “It’s graphic but a lot of them originally started out as drawings with graphite and ink, and then I later uploaded them to the computer and added graphic effects. The exhibit’s just the combination of a lot of different things going on.”
An example of her experimental style is “The Clown,” added Minnatee. If you look at it closely, the image looks like a distorted figure smiling, and while it somewhat resembles a clown, it’s not a clear-cut likeness. It usually takes time to properly see what’s on the image, said Minnatee, and “it’s not just a quick look and you immediately know what it is.”
The “Amalgamation” gallery consists of projects dating back to 2007, and since graduating from college in 2013, Minnatee has actively exhibited in other local Elizabeth venues. But her interest in creating art began while growing up in Elizabeth, when she always knew she wanted to “create” for a living. Minnatee liked to experiment, and for a while, contemplated becoming a chef or an interior decorator.
But she decided on graphic design, said Minnatee, because she feels it offers more opportunities for people to see her work.
“Growing up in Elizabeth, I was in a diverse area, so I was exposed to a lot of different things. I wasn’t raised in a bubble. I was exposed to different cultures, different styles, different techniques, and that’s another thing that plays into my artwork,” said Minnatee. “I always was drawn to creating things. I was never one who would be playing with barbie dolls, I was always playing with building blocks and building things and playing with Playdoh, and sculpting things. I always knew I wanted to create something. Graphic design and artwork just seemed to appeal to me.”
Now Minnatee, who still lives in Elizabeth, is a member of The Elizabeth Arts Council, which holds art and music receptions with artists in the city. She also feels passionately about volunteering and has become very involved in Elizabeth’s art scene, which Minnatee says has room to grow in the coming years.
“It’s there and it has the potential to grow, because we’re positioned between Rahway, which has a lot of stuff going on, and Newark, which has a lot of stuff going on. It’s almost like we’re in the middle between those two,” said Minnatee. “It’s there, but it needs more support behind it. There’s a lot of talented artists in Elizabeth, we just need more of a platform to display it out there. There is an art scene here, and it’s growing, but I know that it has the potential to be more if people can get behind it.”