In Michele Courchene Trackman's last days, she would talk with her husband, Andy, about her fears.
Michele, suffering from a cancer diagnosis that begin in 2004 and ended with endometrial cancer in 2010, told her husband that she was afraid to die. That she was afraid of how he and their then 13-year-old daughter would get on without her.
Michele, an artist since Andy met her at Pottery Barn in Center City in 1980, said she was afraid of being forgotten.
There wasn't much Andy could do about the first and second fears, but he was determined to address the third.
"She told me she was afraid of being forgotten," he said. "That really stuck with me and, soon after she died, I knew I wanted to do something to keep her memory alive. I knew this was something that I had to do."
What started as a discussion between a husband and wife with a 30-year history is coming to fruition at the Mt. Airy Art Garage Friday, October 12 with the opening of the "Michele Courchene Trackman - A Life of Art, Love and Healing" art show.
Tracing a Life
Trackman says that salon-style show, which collects over 60 pieces of Michele's photography, paint and sketch work, is about "allowing people to feel like they're dropping in to say hi to Michele."
"We've got the pieces grouped together by color and style and what point they are from in her life," he said. "It feels, to me, like a timeline."
Trackman began the process of putting Michele's artwork together early in 2012, taking three months to gather work from different points in her life.
He collected pieces dating as far back as her high school work before they met to the five years when Michele was using painting as a form of therapy for her cancer, during which he was able to relive their life together.
"Going through the work was emotional," he said. "I would see a piece and remember where it happened, especially the work from our life together. It drew out emotions from when we first met, through this road we traveled together and through the end, when she was rediscovering art as a way to express dealing with being a cancer patient."
Healing Through Art
Eventually, Andy was able to put together a show with the help of Michele's lifelong friend, sculptor Fritz Dietel, that he thinks will allow visitors to remember Michele and her art.
"It was hard, but I wanted to do it," he said. "I had to do it."
While the show includes what Andy calls "a variety of her important early work, such as oil painting and black and white photography," he feels that it is her late work, the work she did while she was struggling with cancer, that is the most vital.
“She never stopped being an artist, even in her final months when she was confined to a hospital bed and unable to walk," hesaid.
Andy hopes that visitors will be able to appreciate not only the artwork for its own merits, but for what it meant to his departed wife.
"I'd like people to look at this and see Michele's courage," he said. "She was able to take a really awful situation and use art to get through it. It was a way for her to express herself in a way she couldn't in words, and I hope if someone is going through the same thing and they see this work, they will get inspired by Michele to use their creativity to heal."
“Michele Courchene Trackman - A Life of Art, Love, and Healing” will take place in the Solomon Levy Gallery at Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy Art Garage, 11 W. Mt. Airy Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, from October 12th through October 26th.