Skip to main content

No Man’s Land

The Combine glowed with unusual warmth this week as three women– a multimedia illustrator; a sculptor; an abstract artist– joined our makeshift stage in the Yard. 

In a collaboration with the Crybaby gallery, Tacit Collective, the women-led-and-centered Toronto art-collective, has curated “No Man’s Land”: an impressive, intimate selection of internationally-recognized women's artwork. They've chosen to debut this exhibition at The Combine, where we were also thrilled to host a three-artist panel discussion, honoring International Women's Day. 

These three very international women consisted of Maxine McCrann, Tamara “Solem” Al Issa, and Celia Lees

Works by: Maxine McCrann
Works by: Maxine McCrann

McCrann, an New York export, painting and living in Little Portugal, tends to turn her fine-tuned eye for the shapes and colors of pleasure-seeking toward capturing life’s “in-between moments”. Solem, born in Saudi Arabia, may be best known for her intensely blue-hued ceramics that hearken back to the folk motifs of her mixed Middle-Eastern and Filipino ancestry. Small-town Ontario native, Celia Lees’ painted subjects rarely come from the realm of the tangible but often reflect in their large-scale compositions the highly physical movements of the artist’s body through space during their creation.   

Each panelist talked about her joys of living (and making a living) through your art as a woman. But also its challenges. Anyone trying to make a go of it commercially as an artist in the big city can face costs— not all of them financial. From gathering your materials to finding a space to show your art, to setting prices on your pieces, the art world still reverberates with the patronizing attitudes against creative, driven women everywhere.

 Tamara “Solem” Al Issa, and Celia Lees.
Tamara “Solem” Al Issa, and Celia Lees.

Taking the mic, Al Issa explained how the experience of being schooled by the guys at Home Depot about the “right kind of chicken wire” you need to create your next 8-foot-tall sculpture is just one of those awkward interactions you laugh off (not unlike that viral clip of the PGA golfer). But more taxing is the emotional work of building the conviction in your craft to “add a zero” to your price-tag, so that you can continue to finance the art you most want to make. Lees noted the fact that art buyers need reminders they’re paying for not just your canvas, but the cumulative representation of a human’s experiences. It can be lonely being that human.   

Maxine McCrann Talking
Maxine McCrann

Yet, there’s a strength to the struggle. As McCrann notes, the more financially cutthroat and hostile a city like Toronto can feel to artistic life, the more urgently do grassroots sprout up into networks of support. Art people aren’t usually the most market-savvy. But the constant need to drum up business, eyeballs, and support can create an environment where shared knowledge, community, and connection among peers enlarge the rewards you reap for putting yourself out there. 

The Combine exists in part by bringing together people who self-select into such networks, whether it’s the space or the community that brings you there. When our host, Meghan Yuri Young, asked the audience “Who here is an artist?” about half the people raised their hands– but after a little light prodding, almost everyone did. It’s scary out there, for an artist. But less so here. 

Works by Tamara “Solem” Al Issa
Works by Tamara “Solem” Al Issa

Solem said, "A place like The Combine can bring a new light to my pieces. Literally light." She wasn’t (only) referring to our light table in the gallery, but also the thoughtfully curated collection of artists convened there by Tacit and Crybaby. In an industry where traditional, large-scale exhibitions often leave you feeling lost in a swarm of competitors, it’s refreshing to cross over the “no man’s land,” where you might meet a fellow artist you’ve long admired from afar. 

Written By:The Combine

225 Wellington St WToronto-ON / M5V3G7

The Combine is a division of Tadiem, a framework for forward thinking.

©2024 All Rights Reserved. The Combine®