|Stories, essays and memories from family and friends|
|D X Stone|
|Deb (Likowski) Erze|
|Mary Lou Lund and the late Howard Lund|
|Daniel K. Tennant|
|D. Dameon Likowski:
Portrait of the Artist's Work as Mythic Fiery Phoenix Made Flesh
We met when we were just kids. I knew him for 26 years he's been gone nearly five now, and I'm still not used to that I don't think I ever will be
A casual observer of his work would probably never guess that these visions came from an artist who suffered from birth with one of the most debilitating diseases one can imagine but that was precisely his intent, to use his amazing gifts of extreme talent and intelligence to create images of great beauty, sometimes disturbingly beautiful, yet possessed of an almost supernatural calm and quiescence his art was the one place where he could transcend the immense gravity of his physical limitations and soar upon the wings of fantasy
He was a strange amalgam of utterly free spirit and artistic traditionalist in the classical mode; for he believed, as I did, that not all that can be said with authority has already been said, as some more lazy-minded philosophers of the recent past seem to have concluded; rather, in every new age, new information, new technologies and new ways of seeing and apprehending his environment, this limitless universe we find ourselves in, inform new insights and new, original thought...
Thus his early artistic influences included all the old giants of fantasy illustration of the last two centuries or so, and a host of modern visionaries as well: Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Tennyson, Wyeth, Frazetta, Maxfield Parrish, Jeff Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, J. W. Waterhouse, Moebius he drew on all of these and so many more from far earlier ages... but he was more directly inspired by music (he was an extraordinary classically trained pianist), and philosophy of all ages and a burning interest in all things phenomenological and unexplainable and Fortean in nature cosmology, religion, mysticism, ufo's, astrology, astronomy, the latest discoveries in physics and metaphysics and all the sciences he had one of those minds that was constantly searching, never satisfied with the accepted wisdoms of the day, always curious, always full of wonder there was always a very bright light in that attic, one that drew many curious and wide-eyed others to him
He put forth a magnetic personality, a personal charm that belied the great difficulties he faced on an everyday level simply to breathe and function with any modicum of decent energy but he met those challenges with great courage for the most part he rarely complained, especially when he was in the thick of his work
He was a warrior-poet. He was a philosopher and thinker and eclectic scholar. He was as brave and strong and committed an artist as I have ever known and though his output was not great in terms of numbers of finished pieces, he slaved away at some of them for years at a time; they were the only children he was capable of creating, and he loved each one dearly, pouring the very best of himself into them, slowly and patiently and tenderly as any new father
He lived all his life in the shadow of his own mortality and he wanted very desperately to create works that would last beyond him. He wanted to leave some of his light behind for others to appreciate and draw inspiration from and I believe he succeeded in this task far beyond the understanding of mere casual observers
For when observed not casually, but with heart and soul and spirit, it is easy to see that there is fierce heart and brave soul and indomitable spirit in these works. They live and breathe in a way that he might've envied, had he not been so busy trying to create more of them while his own uncertain breath still lasted.
And there is time in these paintings, time in great abundance; a moment of mystery captured, bracketed by question marks of what was previous to and immediately following some art is, to my perception, rather static and lifeless when this aspect is not present; but these images seem full of vibrant life, suspended in some larger, always-mysterious drama that compels the viewer to ask the question "What happened before? What happens next?"
Ironic that his own time was so limited, cut so short by cruel fate for in some of these there is a miraculous sense of the inexplicable, a capturing of an elusive moment between moments, an infinitely fractionated increment of time that transcends time itself, that is somehow infinite in its finite duration, a whispered echo of the eternity that lies behind time, that serves as its foundation and yet utterly negates it
There is paradox in these images; mystery that is impenetrable, that does not ask to be solved but rather is content to simply awe the view for a brief moment or an endless eternity or perhaps both, simultaneously
There is great life and joy and hope in these works; they are flights of fantasy that truly suspend the viewer's disbelief, defying gravity and time and the limits of the flesh in ways I cannot begin to express... it is a feeling you get when you stand before them and share that same sense of wide-eyed awe and wonder at these concrete proofs of the unassailable reality of even the most impossible dream
I knew him for 26 years. All of this was completely intentional and well-considered for these are the sorts of things we spent long hours talking of, far into the dawn and beyond, on so many days and nights that seemed the color and texture and very essence of innocent and perfect wonder themselves
But more, I saw it with my own eyes. I was there.
I saw his pain, his suffering, his courage and strong heart and good
humor in the face of a life that was slowly and implacably strangling
him to death.
He was my good friend, and I will miss him forever.
D X Stone - Aug 2003
|My big brother. My friend. A person
who influenced and shaped my character,
interests and destiny. Time spent with Don provided adventures both inward
and outward, discovery of self and world with a most unusual companion. His
presence offered an environment ranging from witty humor and spontaneity to
intense exchanges of philosophical and humanitarian beliefs.
Don had an understanding of life beyond what most are aware of.
Be it through his Art or love of Music, in the spirit of
To write about my brother, Don... so many feelings come to the surface -- both happy and sad -- memories that span my entire lifetime...
He was my first best friend. We were close in age, I was his big sister. We shared all our earliest memories growing up. From the beginning of his consciousness I believe Don learned to balance the pain & suffering of his existence with great comedic wit & humorous cynicism. He was blessed with an acute intellect and a hunger for knowledge.... he was just fun and interesting to be around!
In our growing up years, he experimented with many disciplines of art. Our Mom brought in ceramics and there was a friendly competition between my brothers to do "cartoon" art. Later, he also got into photography and set up a full darkroom, manipulating images and creating his own version of trick photography.
In our teen years, Don began to find his personal style of art in the world of fantasy (which was probably an escape from the harshness of the reality of the disease of which he was now fully aware). As with everything, he studied and experimented with paint and airbrush, pioneering his own methods with no formal art training. It became evident in his work that there was always a specter in his midst. Unrequited love further fueled his inspiration in his bittersweet renditions.
With limited time and limited energy, his life stretched into adulthood. He was committed to completing a unique legacy of awe and wonder. As talent attracts talent, music artists were drawn to him to illustrate their CD's. He generously designed cards & labels for a friend's business. He was also a cover artist for a John Carroll University publication, and finally produced a collection of poster art and post cards from his amazing original paintings to share with the world.
He defied going into commercial art -- never wanting to "prostitute" his gifts -- believing true art must flow freely. And so he lived the Spartan life of great artists that came before him, never enjoying but meager financial gain from his awesome work.
Don also loved music, many, many styles of music but especially New Age and Classical. My Aunt Helen Michalski, a famous radio pianist, taught us both piano and this was a pleasure Don enjoyed throughout his life becoming accomplished at playing and composing on our beloved concert grand piano and later on his electronic keyboard.
Science Fiction was a wonder to him, in movies & the written word and he was inspired by both. He also admired a number of contemporary fantasy artists and corresponded with them for a time.
Don took his health into his own hands, sometimes losing faith in traditional medicine, he researched many forms of holistic and natural methods. Bravely, he experimented with controversial treatments to ease his suffering and extend his life, which I believe he did to some degree, maybe even doubling his time with us.
My brother loved children, painfully aware his disease would never allow him to have his own, he was a loving and devoted uncle to my three sons & my sister's two boys. He kept a child's heart and always had a soft spot for babies... Don touched so many lives and had long and loyal friends -- this is telling of his compassionate and caring nature.
After I moved to California, he visited several times and he always wanted to come back, he loved it here. We remained close over the telephone. We would talk late into the night many nights about everything under the sun. Don was always interesting, well-read & opinionated about all subjects. His humor and signature chuckle I probably miss most of all....
The last few years of his life were cruel & unusual punishment for the kind & gentle soul that he was. Living a monk-like existence in his studio in my parent's home, his final days between there and the hospital were filled with horrendous suffering. Yet Don never gave up hope, he had looked Death in the face for so long and always fought it back... That shaped his time on Earth like a diamond -- sharp & brilliant, his verve for Life lives on in his work.
I am fiercely proud to have had Don as my brother, friend & part of my eternal soul... I miss him desperately and can barely write through the tears at this point.
Enjoy his Art, everyone... He would have loved that!
Deb (Likowski) Erze
Artist D Likowski deployed imagery and its construction
as a sacred functional refuge above relentless physical suffering. The
Artist intended to communicate unknowable & quintessential aesthetic
mystery whilst seeking to travel outside not only
|I am Deb Erze's husband Jamie, and
also the brother-in-law of the late Don Likowski. I too wanted to share
just a few of my thoughts about Don. Obviously my relationship was not that
of an insider looking in, but rather an outsider who had the wonderful opportunity
to peek into the world of Don Likowski.
Who was Don Likowski...aka Dameon Likowski? I first met Don in the summer of 1981, shortly after I met Debra. My first encounter with Don actually started on the way across town for my first visit at their parent's home. Debra mentioned casually..."I just want to let you know...my family is a bit strange." My initial reaction was...whose isn't really? As I reflect back on that comment, I never really viewed it as a warning, but rather as a "launching pad" when it came to Don and his intensity for life and all that surrounded him.
From the start, Don had lots of questions of me, an observant stare, frequently making general statements to see how I'd react, then more questions...as if he was testing me or attempting to get in touch with some of my inner space. By spending a little time with him, it was inevitable that he could get in sync with some of my thoughts, feelings, and interests (especially science fiction movies, and one classic in particular). Further, Don always demonstrated a keen and genuine insight on a variety things within the world around him. He also shared his passion and intensity for almost anything and expressed his thoughts openly and passionately. Some believe a long and good friendship is established at an early age and it builds...not so with Don, it was like we had been friends from the start.
I knew Don for only 17 years, but they were very interesting years to say the least. It was that intensity and passion for life that he embraced and shared with others that hooked you in. While he suffered terribly, he had that inner strength to push onward with a vengeance. Many times he would be driven backwards, but seemed to be able to regroup, catch his breath and then take another intense leap forward.
I remember Don in a variety of ways, all unique, yet they were truly what made his being. We saw him as a son, brother, uncle, cousin, artist, comedian, brother-in-law, photographer, musician, dreamer, debater, creator, scientist, experimenter, student of life, inventor, carpenter, pioneer, imaginer, traveler, kid at heart, and survivor. But most of all, he was a friend...a friend to all.
Don was my friend, and I miss him in my own way and always will. Periodically I get a sign that he is amongst us, kind of a just "checking-in" in his unique way to just keep things interesting as our lives press onward without him.
I expect someday all those who knew him will meet up with him again...whether it's when you see a rainbow or you see something in a movie that makes a connection.
One additional thought and experience that I'd like to share....the sci-fi movie Don and I always liked used three unusual words -- KLAATU BARADA NIKTO -- I guess it had a special meaning to both of us, and we'd use it in some of our correspondence on email or over the phone as a way to say "you know what I mean." Further, the day of Don's memorial service I was in California for I couldn't make the trip back to say good-bye. How strange though...I had clicked on the television, looked at the clock and realized the service was underway. As the picture came alive on the screen and without changing the channel, the movie that was playing was that sci-fi favorite...and as the audio came through, those three words could be clearly heard. I truly believe it was Don's way of telling me it was ok that I couldn't make it back, he understood and preferred it that way.
The movie concludes with this final thought...
"Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.
from the movie..."The Day the Earth Stood Still".
On that day I truly felt like the day did stand still.
|I was sitting in the back row of catechism class.
Our church hadn't been built yet so we gathered at the local junior high
school. I was maybe 12. Like just about everyone else in class that day
I had little interest in the keys to eternal life. I was more interested
in watching the boy sitting in the second row, middle. He was thin with
long fingers and sandy hair. He had a Beatle cut. He was wearing a CPO,
a flannel button-down, lightweight jacket that was absolutely the hippest
thing to wear at the time. His was navy blue. A navy blue CPO commanded
immediate respect. He couldn't sit still. He kept moving, fiddling with
his jacket, slumping, shifting, nervously twitching. One hand would dart
underneath his jacket, the other quickly slip inside his collar and then
both would come to rest on the desk. These movements were repeated several
times during the course of the lecture. Smooth and lightning quick. Precise.
I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I had never before seen such a person.
Hip and distracted. Impeccably dressed. Then something caught my eye. A
quick gray blur above his collar. A sooty puff and then gone. I was frozen
in my seat. And then to my complete astonishment and utter delight I watched
as a mouse crawled out from underneath his collar and scurried along his
left shoulder down to his pocket. Beatle cut, navy blue CPO, mouse. This
is my earliest memory of Don and I knew at that precise moment that I had
to find a way to become his friend.
|In loving memory of a dear and
gentle soul, whose courage was an inspiration to all who had the privilege
and joy of knowing him. Thank you for hours of companionship, friendship
and memories that will lift our spirits for years to come.
Mary Lou Lund
|The most amazing person I ever met was Dameon Likowski.
From the first day I met him as a boy of 3 or 4 he was already a full, developed
personality. Just a tiny elf of a child but he communicated like you were
speaking to an adult filled with humor and imagination. I was an older boy
but I was always drawn back to visit him and soon formed a life long friendship
that was a door to a world of imagination, exploration and adventure far
from the drab work-a-day existence. His world would always contain something
new whenever you visited. He was an untiring explorer into the realms of
mind: learning, music, science and many more. You would always be introduced
to something more amazing than the last and there was no end, such as the
day I was introduced to the scanning electron microscope in large volumes
of surreal images of submicroscopic battles between miniature insects that
appeared to be sci-fi-ish robots. Or be treated to the far-flung ecstacies
of a Beethoven sonata that he had learned on the pianoforte the day before.
But above all the wonders and embracing them was the Art. For all of the learning, the music and the exploring were just for the art. They were mining expeditions for ever more rare raw materials to be brought back and hurled into the blazing forge that was the Imagination of Dameon Likowski. That was where this Titan cast the Images that he would leave behind for us mere mortals; the signposts to mark the way to the realms where only he could go. Where we must all follow. The Worlds WithIn.
And how terrible was that labor for him. For every image was bought with a terrible price in struggle against a terrible daemon that dwelled within. A cruel genetic horror that sought to stop him at every turn but that he battled mightily against for he always vowed never to surrender.
And to this day anyone who has ever seen these images that I have shown them has marveled at their haunting beauty and has sworn to the otherworldly whispers that have remained WithIn them crying " If?"
Some years ago my amazing friend went away. He went back There to the WonderWorld from where he came. From where I could not follow. I gazed at him one last time as he reclined in rest in his Casket of Ancient Winters but I swear he did not rest. No, his visage was etched in a gleam of defiance! It was his final work of Art to tell us all "HA! This is not the End. I knew it!"
And so I did not weep for him. I wept for all of us who lost a mighty champion of the Mind who only worked to lead us to where he came and to where he went and now you must be brave. You must enter the Fabulous World of the Art of Dameon Likowski. Speak the magic word "IF" and enter. You will never be the same.
|Images of Don
Intense blue eyes peer out at me through boxes of cereal and cans of soup as we dance this dance in and out of the aisles of the market. Finally his voice: "My name is Dameon Likowski. I want to paint you."
I'm sitting in Don's room with the velvet flocked wallpaper listening to Beethoven's Ninth. Don is translating the German for me. Bottles of oils and tubes of paint. A respirator and an oxygen tent. I gaze at a painting of a young girl by William Bouguereau, which hangs on the wall beside a photograph of a tow-headed boy named Pip, whom Don loves deeply and photographs endlessly.
I sit for days and weeks and years. I watch Don paint: The Colloquy, Wahn, M.U. Shroom, Journey, Aguirre I, The Conqueror. We talk through rain and snow and sunshine in the meadows, under streetlamps, in Greek restaurants deep into the night, about life, death, religion, philosophy, art, music.
And he plays that lovely grand piano of his and the harpsichord in the secret room that we've stolen into at the college. And I think I will certainly die from an overdose of beauty when he plays The Appassionata & Pathetique of Beethoven or Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu. It feels as if the composers are whispering into Don's ear.
He prepares the most elaborate meals - bizarre foods that are terribly healthy. He insists that I try caviar. I hate it. He's clearly amused. It slowly dawns on me that he doesn't much like it either. He breaks into peals of laughter. That irresistable, unmistakable Don laugh, impossibly contagious and like no other sound in the world.
We go to the cystic fibrosis ward, and I watch him give his love to dying children. They love him right back and he's visibly moved.
He is more alive than anyone I know. He seizes life and watches exactly everything.
He is a free thinker.
He is generous and lovely and deeply loyal.
He coughs and he paints and he never complains. And he creates the most brilliant paintings and they infect my dreams.
In California I sell posters of Don's paintings to merchants up and down the coast. Each, in turn, draws in a sharp breath of delight at the first glimpse of his work.
Years later I become a mother. My angel boy is born on Don's birthday. Don finds this remarkable. He finds most things in life to be so.
Don is ever vigilant, relentless, searching for gnosis - a connection with the infinite.
I believe he found it.
He is as present now as ever. A reflection of the life he lived. It continues like ripples in water when it's been displaced by something very large.
I keep a poem that Don wrote me. It's scrawled across a wall in my studio beside a photograph of Don at his easel, where he peers out at me and taunts and compels and always inspires:
It was a short 42 years to spend with this very unique person who was so full of imagination and so diverse in his interests - he was an avid reader and deep thinker. He was also kind and caring.
Although his time was so limited he left behind a legacy that so few of us do.
He managed to make and keep so many friends even though he was so confined to home. Via the internet he had friends all over the world but his "mainstay" was always his art and music.
I feel so blessed to have had him in my life for 42 years.
|"Dameon", The Bravest man
I have ever known -------
My son Donald was our first son, and before we had children his mother
Barbara and I agreed to name our first son after a very close friend of
mine, an Alaskan, killed in a plane crash, and his brother Ed. While only
in their twenties, they were a legend for their bravery and wilderness
and sea faring abilities. I had hoped that the names of these two most
courageous men would cause courage to be instilled into my first son.
And courage was Donald Edward's greatest feature, far above his artistic
and piano playing ability. His friends admired and learned perseverance
from observing this skinny, 105 lb. man, although coughing hundreds of
times a day, and sometimes all night, he was determined to carry out his
plans of creating outstanding paintings that would stimulate the imaginations
of humanity for hundreds of years. He also attempted to create oil paints
that would last for hundreds of years as DiVinci's had, and he exchanged
his ideas with nationally known artists Frazetta and Tennant. As his father,
I remember him for his bravery, above all, his attitude of not wasting
the precious moments of life, by accomplishing all that he could thru
Art, and realistically being aware since his teenage years until his 42nd
year that he definitely would leave this life, any day, any month. He
refused to be pampered and found that keeping up with his two vigorous
brothers was no big deal, and I feel he surpassed them by being on the
"front lines" of an illness war all of his life. I tell this
story not for sympathy for him, not in the least, he would have resented
sympathy ----- it wasn't macho. After the best hospital in the world for
treatment of Cystic Fibrosis told him they could not do anymore except
experiment on him, Don proceeded to work on his own cures --- wheat germ
medicine, carrot juices, chelation, starvation and even a series of treatments
in the Philippines by psychic surgeons. I say his strongest medicine was
his courage to accept continuous coughing and unbearable stomach pains,
he had to eat a dozen pills with each meal, and his determination to create
stimulating paintings was comforting medicine. We spoke of death often,
he and I, as if going away on a trip but more important was to "hang
in there," perhaps a cure will come along with a shot a day, as Diabetics
do, and live to be elderly. I tell this story also to encourage people
with serious problems to copy his attitude, and you may find life worthwhile,
instead of bitterness and self-pity. Maybe that's why God set him up as
an example. I also remember his sense of humor, he laughed often, and
he enjoyed causing his nephews to laugh, and he spent hours teaching them
computer games, and passed on his knowledge of UFO's and they loved him
for it --- he was one of them, and not an old man. I remember the blond
hair, mischievous, teasing his 4 brothers and sisters, energetic youngster
during his preteen years -- we all refused to pamper him, so that he would
survive longer by growing up on the "tough side," and he did
survive triple the average life span of 14 years that Cystic Fibrosis
patients had to look forward to. God was kind to us with an extra 28 years.
Also I remember how proud we were when at North Royalton High School,
being 15 years old, he solo played, on this GRAND PIANO, three classical
pieces, from total memory, without error, in front of 500 people. He had
a standing ovation. My skinny little Donnie was one brave guy --- thank
you God for lending us your treasure.
Dameon's art was inspired by music and influenced by
his mortality. He captured the realm of fantasy on canvas where life remained
perpetual. His paintings maintained a state of flux, where over time,
minute details were added --until perfection was achieved. Colloquy is
such a piece. Perfection was what drove Dameon in his every undertaking.
His life, his breath, his very construct.
I think of
him often and miss him.
Dameon truly left a lasting impression on all of us. He was soulful, gracious, talented, and kind. Was he so aware of his mortality that it made him even more artistic and appreciative of his surroundings?
|I had an article published in an airbrushing magazine
and received a
warm, gracious call from an artist named Dameon Likowski. He was
intrigued with my realistic style and wanted to know some of my
"secrets". I believe this was in 1988. It always is fun to hear from
readers and his call was no exception- except that he continued to keep
in touch. I find it a bit strange that I am writing a testimonial about a person whom I never met in person but had plenty of talks with over the years on the phone.
From our ten year friendship I look back and noticed clearly some things about this artist. He was first of all a perfectionist. When he sent me a tape of Cat Stevens which he made for me, the writing on it looked like it was done by a machine. It was so incredibly perfect. His recordings were also perfect. No sloppiness whatsoever.
When we talked about art and techniques, he always had very specific
When we talked on the phone he always sounded winded and it was his
He told me he loved music and I believe he told me he was a trained
He sent me samples of his work and it was impressive to say the least.
It was interesting talking to Dameon. He always had something
Daniel K. Tennant, Artist
| I met Dameon by phone while
working for a mail-order company. We hit it off immediately when I asked
him what he did, and I mentioned how I'd been "into" the sci-fi/fantasy
scene for years, and I was acquainted with at least the artists that he
called his influences. It slowly became a weekly, if not a daily, conversation
over computer hardware, art, and the meaning and impact of both in our lives.
Eventually, Dameon knew the names of my family members, and I knew the names
of his, and our conversations moved on to more personal matters.
Once, my family and I were taking a flight on Delta, and had a 2 hour layover in Cleveland. Dameon made the trip into the city, and spent the whole time sitting and talking with us. It was very nice to finally put a real face to the voice. We hugged before I had to get on the plane, and it was hard not to get a little choked up.
A few weeks before he died, Dameon and I had a great conversation over the phone. I'd called him up out of the blue from home, and his mother had given me his phone number at the hospital. I hadn't kept up with him as much as I could have, and his illness had progressed pretty far. We talked for at least an hour, and I called him the next day, and it was much the same. It was like old times all over again. I talked about getting some sort of site set up for him on the web to market his stuff, and he humored me, I think. When I later talked to his mother, she mentioned how my calls had done him a lot of good. I still don't know where she got the strength to even talk about him -- I was a mess.
It wasn't a year into knowing him until he let me know that he had CF.
I frankly couldn't believe it at the time: He was probably one of the
more incessantly positive people I'd ever met. His dreams and ideas never
stopped. I firmly believe that his last thoughts were of some far-off
magical place, and how he'd manage, someday, to bring that vision to life.