Pepe Ozan (1940-2013)

Pepe Ozan (photo by Dust & Illusions)

We are deeply saddened by the news of artist Pepe Ozan’s recent death. Pepe was a formidable and passionate artist, sculptor and visionary who contributed greatly to the Burning Man experience. As one of the great creators of Burning Man art over a period spanning decades, Pepe gave tremendously to the event, the community and ultimately to the culture that has grown out of Black Rock City.

“Lingam”, 1993 (photo by Stuart Harvey)

One of Pepe’s lingam sculptures was first burned at Burning Man in 1993, and he created “Pepe’s Tower” each year after that until 2000. In Burning Man’s early years in the Black Rock Desert, the ritual burning of “Pepe’s Tower” on Friday night was traditionally followed by the burning of the Man the next evening. The Friday night ritual became more elaborate each year, and in 1996 it was renamed “The Burning Man Opera”.

“Le Nystere de Papa Loko” opera, 1999 (Photo by Tom Pendergast)

Pepe’s elaborate operas included “The Arrival of Empress Zoe” (1996), “The Daughters of Ishtar” (1997), “The Temple of Rudra” (1998), “Le Mystere De Papa Loko” (1999), “The Thaur-Taurs of Atlan” (2000), and “Ark of the Nereids” (2002), which featured a 35′-long mobile sculpture / musical instrument in the form of a Spanish Galleon crossed with a mythical aquatic creature. These epic performances, remembered fondly by so many in our community, would feature over 2,000 dancers and performers – in a true demonstration of radical inclusion, any and all Burners were invited to participate.

“The Dreamer” in Golden Gate Park (photo by Brad Immanuel)


Pepe’s “The Dreamer” sculpture was commissioned by Burning Man in 2005 for the “Psyche” art theme, after which it was installed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park by the Black Rock Arts Foundation from May to November of 2007.

“Monicacos de Esperanza”, 2006 (photo by Alan Matthew)


In 2006, Pepe created his last installation for Burning Man, the whimsical collection of colorful surrealist figures “Monicacos de Esperanza”. These were later installed by the Black Rock Arts Foundation as one of the premiere installations for San Francisco’s new Blue Greenway Project art trail.

“The Ark of Nereids”, 2002 (photo by Michael Depraida)


You can see Pepe’s “Eagle-Warrior” next to Cesar Chavez Street under the Highway 101 overpass in San Francisco; read a great interview with Pepe discussing Burning Man, taking risks, living intensely, transformation and more; and get a taste for Pepe’s operas in the trailer for Dean Mermell’s film “The Eye of Rudra”. Finally, we welcome to browse through Pepe’s work in the Burning Man image gallery.

We are indebted to Pepe, and he will be dearly missed both as an artist and as a friend to Burning Man. We invite you to share your stories about Pepe in the comments below.


City of Dis, 1996 (photo by Carlos Hunt)
“Daughters of Ishtar”, 1997 (photo by Holly Kreuter)
Temple of Rudra poster, 1998
“The Thar-Taurs of Atlan”, 2000 (photo by Melitta Tchaicovsky)
“The Thar-Taurs of Atlan” on fire, 2000 (photo by Maurizio Niccolai)
One of the “Monicacos de Esperanza” at SF Decompression, 2006 (photo by CameraGirl)
“The Dreamer” on playa, 2005 (photo by Gabe Kirchheimer)

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase

Will Chase is Burning Man's former Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He was the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Burning Man Journal, and content manager for Burning Man’s web properties. He also oversaw the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social media presence. Will first attended Burning Man in 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art HQ) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004 until he transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009.

66 Comments on “Pepe Ozan (1940-2013)

  • Twan says:

    Pepe Ozan! Passionate instigator. Leader of leaders. Follower of none. Did it his way, all the way, all the time. Much love and respect. Pepe changed my life for the better, and so it will be until my end. I miss my friend. But I am at peace with his passing, sad as hell though it is. In life and in death, it was all on his terms. That’s all I’ve got for now.

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  • Bob Stahl says:

    Possibly the busiest, most energetic and enthusiastic soul I’ve ever encountered out there, from 1996 when he recruited campmates into the Empress Zoe foofaraw. He had an elegant touch in combining native & imported materials w/ fuel, and I’ll miss him.

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  • drdeb says:

    so many fine moments with Pepe, but a moment i recall was one day we went sailing with a group of people on their sailboat, the group of sailors got progressively drunk as the day went on and the wind considerably stronger, at one point ,i was scared about whether we would make it back to land as the wind threatened to turn us over,it was Pepe, who had sailed many a boat up and down the coast of south and north america that guided us solo back to port. i trusted him. through Pepe ,i met many of my dearest friends today, because of him i was in the burning opera, i have his art in my home, i helped him build it for a Museum show, I lived in his studio, I laughed , drank wine, and shared stories with him on many a night. he will be missed, i wanted to do one more burn with him, so since he has decided not to return to the playa, Im dedicating this burn to him.

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  • Smooches says:

    My first Burning Man in 2000, I was in his opera. Changed me in ways I can’t even name…not even 13 years later. So very sad to hear he’s gone.

    I danced naked except for blue body paint (or was it red?) and shoes. We practiced and rehearsed and ritualized ourselves in preparation for the opera. It rained hard and cold that Friday night. The opera was postponed until Saturday night after the Man burn.

    That night my life altered…went in a completely different direction than what I thought my life was going to go. A road and path that made me the woman I am today–strong, driven, spontaneous and confident.

    I have never forgotten the impact of standing under Water Woman being painted, learning and chanting in the pyramid and the power of live performance.

    Thank you for giving us so much Pepe. I pray we gave back to you as much.

    Rest in peace.

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  • ddp says:


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  • acaro says:

    I love his art

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  • Andie Grace says:

    Farewell, Pepe. A passionate artist, a lovely man.

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  • Kaosmic Kitty says:

    What an amazing passionate, vital firecracker of a man! I mourn his loss and celebrate his life! He invited me to perform in his Opera, to follow my heart for my role…, my heart led me to be a Melancholic-mourning, moaning, and wailing maniacally,until the morning rose and the tower was smoldering ruins…, now I am melancholic for the loss of a great man.

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  • DangerAngel says:

    Actually Pepe’s lingam and the Man burned the same night in 1995. I stage managed the performance at the lingam that year.

    Pepe was a great man… warm and generous, witty and hilarious, and so interested in YOU… even though he was The Most Interesting Man in the World.

    I loved him.

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  • anothertucker says:

    I never spent a single moment with Pepe Ozan on the playa, but i will always remember the night he invited me into his studio and then out to dinner with another dear friend, and I listened to him speak for hours about the value and pain of great artistic undertakings and knew that no matter what happened, as long as the project was big and true and perhaps even a little scary in the undertaking, I was headed in the right direction. And for that, Pepe, I thank you. You are a legend, and will be missed. I also enjoyed dragging your fish around until the Rangers put us to bed.

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  • Denny smith says:

    Our first year in 97 was defined by the opera that night…..primal and imposing….just took me to a place previously unvisited…it was just so unique that I told myself the playa was home, and the gift of Ishtar would inspire me to get more involved with the gift of art and creativity ……. Truly he was huge

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  • Justin Credible says:

    Pepe Ozan..a father to me…he inspired me to become me… he let us play in the mud…become one with the earth and each other…he brought the world and his wisdom of its legends to Burning Man…he built art out of the playa and not just on the playa…he taught us so much…he let us perform for you…he took us from the underworld to heaven in many magical projects….I really though we would have you here for more years to come…Thank you for all you’ve done and inspired in this world! We love you…I love you…Empress Zoe!!

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  • Magdalena Mccann says:

    I met Pepe in 1985 through mutual film maker friends, many years before going to Burning Man. My favorite memory is of stopping by his home at Theater Artaud the night before the Manicacos were due to be opened by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Burning Man in SF. Pepe was devastated, they had been badly vandalized. We got up before dawn and filled and spackled the holes and repainted over the damage. We had a plan to distract Gavin if he went to touch them as the paint was still wet! It worked, the opening went ahead beautifully. Vaya con amor Pepe.

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  • I don’t know what to say, I’ve been a ‘burner’ more or less since 1999 and get nostalgic for all the stories of the early burns of which Pepe played a major role. I think his art kept him going on strong well into his later years. A true inspiration.

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  • I remember when I was filming Pepe when he was making the dreamer. He was working non-stop, pushing his shopping cart with his welder inside. One day we were going to lunch, we took his old red car to go. I was with the camera filming him inside the car. He took off, not stopping at the Stop sign, no seat belt, and while he was talking about his favorite subject: women! he pulled a beer from between the car seats ad drunk it. That’s Pepe. He lived fully with little barriers in front of him. He would lo

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  • Ah I didn’t finish…. When you’d be revealing your limits or your weaknesses he would look at you, wondering what you’re afraid of, and tell you how there’s nothing stopping you except yourself. Pepe… I wish I had been able to visit him in Argentina, I’ve heard great stories of his life there. Never say next time. Pepe is dead, long live Pepe. Almost to the day 4 years ago Tom Kennedy died as well (April 12th) now Pepe April 10th… And a few days ago Les Blank! Lets not forget them. Lets live life fully like they did!

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  • Crimson Rose says:

    Pepe was a amazing man of vision with a twinkle in his eye, as if he knew a secret and was just waiting for the rest of us to catch on. Heaven will be burning some art tonight.

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  • Crimson Rose says:

    Those that go before us will always be remembered for their presence. For their presence in our lives is the true gift to the world.

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  • Felix says:

    Saddened by the loss of Pepe’:

    Pepe’: Thank you for your passion, vision, inspiration, and amazing playa artworks that inspired me and countless others.
    We will always remember you and be eternally thankful for the art that you brought to our eyes, ears, and hearts.

    We will embody your spirit as we work collaboratively to imagine and manifest amazing, uplifting, engaging art works for Black Rock City.

    Thank you Burning Man for putting together such a beautiful tribute in words and pictures.

    I started going to Burning Man around 1998 and at that time was awestruck, captivated, by the size, construction, and content of his artworks.

    Pepe’: We will be creating on the playa with your spirit in heart and mind— AND.. we will be looking for your next piece… A twinkling Yoni or Lingam constellation in the night sky over Black Rock City…

    Eternal Dusty Playa Hug…


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  • Shae says:

    As an ‘old timer’, my best and fondest memories of Burning Man have always included Pepe, his temples and his operas. I will not ever forget those years and the snapshots in my brain include many moments, both on playa and in San Francisco that could never have happened without him and his vision. This news saddens me more than I woould have imagined.
    I reconnected with some of my oldest friends and have met some of my closest now due to those times – and Pepe was an integral backdrop to them all.

    Some small, intense and fantastic part of the soundtrack of my life falls silent with his passing. I can only hope that there’s a temple on fire somewhere in the universe for him

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  • al honig says:

    Pepe was a good friend for over 25 years, we worked together on many projects including all the towers since 1993, his vision was inspirational and I will miss him.

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  • Dean Mermell says:

    It’s because of Pepe that so many of us have met. When I heard the news of his passing I wrestled with the issue of putting it out there to everyone because I knew there would be such an outpouring of emotion, and I hesitated being the bearer of such awful news; but in the end Pepe was so much more than an individual star, he was a sun, and the sun shines for everyone. I’ve been a little overwhelmed with all the reactions since posting of his passing, but so honored to have witnessed the incredible reaction to his presence in the world. Pepe moved the world, and he continues to. We are all lucky to have been here with him.

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  • Steve Glen says:

    What an inspiration!

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  • Marrvelous says:

    Thank you Pepe, thank you.

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  • Twan says:

    For what it’s worth, Pepe was actually born in 1939. All over the web, they have got it wrong, as if all reports got the same information from the same incorrect source. January 31, 1939.

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  • Chrissie Turner Wilson says:

    Very sad to hear that Pepe has gone ahead…and selfishly I’m so sad that I will never get to see him again. He threw my ‘leaving SF’ party at his wonderful house – and bought tons of stuff when I had a garage sale, so that when I visited I could still use my plates, bowls, etc. I guess he knew I was sentimental about that kind of thing. I only knew him for four short years, but we shared great friends, great memories, playa dust and dreams…he was a fantastic character. Pepe was dramatic and epic (“It’s a DISASTER!!” was often heard but always with a twinkle.) Inspirational artist and spirit. Thanks Pepe!

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  • Playa Nai`a says:

    Hola Pepe– Although we never met, your operas continue to inspire me! Sending you a Wave of Divine Love for your safe, no, interesting, journey. we are One

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  • I met Pepe in 99 and was able to be vicariously involved in “Le Mystere De Papa Loko”. Over the course of the next 8 years I was able to spend a lot more time with him at Burning Man and more importantly in the Bay area. His Art has left an indelible print on the culture that inhabits that unforsaken desert. He will be sorely missed.

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  • cheap tequila says:

    I was lucky enough to spend a couple days helping Pepe with his Monicacos de Esperanza in his studio. He knew I wasn’t an artist but he put me to work anyway, trusting me with applying paint and sawing shapes out of styrofoam. I couldn’t believe the trust, openness, and patience he showed me, the sheer generosity of letting me be a part of his process. His enthusiasm and sheer physical vitality were both mesmerizing and exhausting — whereas I was worn-out by the end of the day, he was as full of energy as he had been when I arrived.

    On the afternoon of the second day, we started soaking sheets of fiberglass in plaster and then smoothing them over the styrofoam body of what would become the Monicacos’ blue dog. I lasted until numerous fiberglass splinters managed to work themselves through my gloves. I don’t think Pepe was even *wearing* gloves.

    If I recall correctly, Pepe said he’d first seen the Monicacos upon waking from a dream; witnessing him make that vision into a material reality is one of the most inspiring and magical experiences I’ve had, and I’m so grateful that I got to be a tiny part of it.

    Pepe, thank you so much. The image of you working on those two days has become an archetype of vitality and creativity to me, an archetype I still hope to grow toward in my own life. I can’t thank you enough for that gift.

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  • Dave Cherry says:

    I’ve attended many a Burn over the years but some of my very favorite were the times that I participated in three of Pepe’s Operas (1998, 99, 2000). They were indeed magical and transcendent experiences which will remain with me for the rest of my life. I learned new ways of thinking from them and made lasting friendships there with many wonderful people (some of whom have commented above–you know who you are!) I thank Pepe from the bottom of my heart for making this all possible and am very sorry that he is no longer with us. He was a brilliant and passionate man, who will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

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  • Oh Pepe, Oh Pepe, we all love you and now we all miss you.

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  • Warrior Girl says:

    Pepe was one of the biggest influences of my art-life! I will miss him, his smile, his laugh, and his amazing spirit! RIP Pepe, I love you!

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  • Smokecat says:

    when I stumbled into the opera in ’97,I entered the aperture of Pepe’s spirit and was infected and transformed forever.You would think they would have warned me at the gate… was my first year on the playa for god’s sake.We miss you,Pepe.Your spirit lives on in the trees.

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  • Jorge Molina says:

    I met Pepe Ozan in 1980, when we were working on San Francisco’s Carnaval. We were friends(brothers) from that moment, he taught all of us, how to use the fire of Life and all its miracles. How we will miss him has no measure, he has left his imprint in every heart he touched. Zeal for life is a good phrase….. that’s Pepe

    Llegastes como un torbellino y nos enseñastes como vivir con todas las intensidades que nos da la vida, eras un visionario apasionado y gracias a tu visión estamos todos juntos celebrando tu obra, que descanses en paz hermano mío te queremos mucho!

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  • Daniel Saenz says:

    Pepe se fue como un guerrero romano, en su ley! .. tomó su vida… jamás pensó en entregarla.
    Pepe went like a Roman soldier, in his law! . he took his life… never thought about giving it.

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  • Brian Goggin says:

    What a terrible loss. Pepe was great mentor and a friend to humanity.

    Ah Pepe…Thank you for sharing your friendship vision and curiosity. The universe has learned more about itself through your life.

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  • Dear Pepe, I know you can read this !

    We will all see you again one day, I am sure .

    I will all miss your soulful Latin inspired music parties in your studio on 17th St. They could rival any Hollywood soiree.

    You have a Sean Connery savvy and Latin Lover style all your own.

    Your talents in multiple subjects are masterful:

    LAW in Argentina ,

    Sailing around the world….unbridaled….( collecting rare sea shells from far away beaches, whale bones, and rusted metals all making their way into your tapestry of museum quality sculptures.)

    Documentary film producer extrodinaire. Only you can reflect the “smile inside” those saintly deep brown eyes generously projecting them on all of us at Theater Arteaud.

    Opera Creator/ Writer ..what kind of talent is that ! those opera must have all been reflecting metaphorically your real life ,,, they have touched the lives of so many.

    Your WOWPOWER, blowing away playaneers year after year. with those monumental sculptural set designs…. a talent that sent you on a path of international fame. Being in those opera’s was an honor.

    Gourmet cook / wine lover…. great times in your studio Pepe

    What didn’t you do in your life! ?

    For such a small frame you packed a lot of punch both visually, intellectually. and passionately.

    Hey ,,,, speaking of that punch, we had a deal when we got old and you beat me to the finish line. Well you have always been master of your own destiny so I hope you are as free as an eagle.

    Love you for eternity

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  • *GrAviTy* says:

    I loved the operas sooooooo much! Thank you Pepe for having such a tremendous vision that was so well received by so many. I was fortunate enough to participate in “The Thar-Taurs of Atlan” opera my first year on Playa. What a treat! It’s still one of my best memories in my eleven years at B-Man. Condolences to his family and friends.

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  • harinama says:

    Thank you all for your words. Through these wonderful eulogies, I feel i know more about Pepe.

    I will never forget the joy of seeing his last installation, “Monicacos de Esperanza” during my first burn (2006). It remains one of my favorites. Pepe was proof that real, life-changing art is being created each year in BRC that has meaning to the world at large.

    Pepe, you exemplified what it means to be a burner to me; to be independent, engaging, funloving, energetic, passionate and willing to overcome fears to create for the greater good.

    May you rest in peace, and may we remember the lessons you taught us.

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  • Laird Archer says:

    Pepe was a man who created and lived adventure(s). Although we were never close, our circles crossed in many ways. I witnessed the bacchanalian intense ancient and yet modern ritual of the Opera in 1996, and participated in the Opera a couple of years later. The sculpture, and performance, and ritual, and environment … all lent themselves to something amazing. For a time, the Opera was more of a ritual than the burning of the man. And that was just a part of Pepe. I remember we would see each of many events, from Anon Salon to Theater Artaud, BM events to house parties. A part of my life. I like your fire, Pepe. Thank you.

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  • $teven Ra$pa says:

    I remember Pepe’s laugh…as glorious and boundless as his art and the mad visions he regularly wrestled into reality with a cast of seemingly thousands. Just as he knew how to laugh well, he knew how to live well; how to play well with other strong-willed artists (no small task!); how to tell and live timeless stories well; and how to create living ritual and grand sacred spaces from imagination, playa dust, and sheer force of communal will. Pepe reinforced for me that there is wonder and drama in everything around us and anything is possible when we are willing to slather on some mud–or transform ourselves however we feel inspired–and join the cast of characters in the mad singing procession toward inspired sanity.

    Pepe, may wonder, love, bold art and possibility bloom in your footprints and may your laugh echo in the wind and crackle in our fires! We will never forget you or your work…but, too soon you have left us. Too soon, my friend! Surely you left more than enough for us, but I am greedy for you and it’s too damn soon!

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  • Eveline "Kaotika" says:

    Wow, I met so many of my dear friends from his opera The Temple of Rhudra. Who would have known that so many of us drawn in to that project would remain connected regardless of distance and taste.
    When I first met him and heard the hoopla in the desert everyone was speaking of this man. I had no idea why. Then they spoke of his towers and his opera. I really wondered what is all the fuss about so I watched and felt it.
    From my understanding, many of the residents of the Artaud were making art out in the desert and he was one of them before Burning Man started to happen with its namesake today.
    What a man.

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  • Moze says:

    I encountered Mr. Pepe Ozan’s work my first year out there. At his Temple of Rudra. I met his insect dancers up close through virgin excited eyes. I saw them before and after their immolation and took pictures on a disposable camera that used film, where you’d give the entire camera to Walgreens then wait, wait, days and eventually they’d give you these images in a folded cardboard thing you’d open up to get to these sticky paper-like “photographs” you couldn’t touch without leaving fingerprints on them.

    The night your Temple ignited, I bathed in the flickering firelight mind blown with my Burning Man class of 1998. It was a great year. Thank you for that Pepe.

    In 99 I anticipated Mr.Pepe Ozan and actually had some pre Burning Man perspective about his “La Mystere de Papa Loko” as I myself had connected at one time with Dambala Wedo and the great snake around an egg with all above a rainbow. There were frosh web sites at that time and the “online” hype of our event then seems quaint now. Mr. Ozan had been producing Operas for a while, but that year, Pepe the psychic explorer pulled in another entity to manifest upon the playa. And again the firelight fell down across sudden dust as the slow opera dance he wrote drove and stirred up devils and angels and spirits all around. He was quite the dashing Papa Legba that year. I remember all the stacks of wood just out from what would become Center Camp and a ranger telling me, these are for Pepe. I saw Papa Legba’s staff in that wood pile.

    And I was there when his Yoni and Lingam graced the Body in aught 00. My troupe and I were Headless Maidens then, and we stumbled across the playa to his sculpture to take it in. Then in aught 02 Pepe’s “Ark of the Nereids”, Nahrwal! Fucking Beautiful Narwhal manifested in that unintentional marine year. I followed it, bathing in the blue green beauty, as I was riding my bike home at sunset. We hit the precipice of Esplanade as an obnoxious EL whale driven by Flash (of course) was passing fast haphazard the other direction, out into the playa night so I turned around and chased McSatan out into the oncoming darkness. (That Ark became a 2010 Media Mecca Megs delightful resurrected being).

    Oh Pepe. I first met you at Ms. LadyBee’s Christmas party and your eyes glistened, your charm exuded. You and the other Opera-tists, the other Artists: the talk was costumes and aesthetics and climate on the desert where you brought your art and the toiling futility of it all! Ms. Jennybird was having a show and we hung out, standing there atop Potrero Hill in the Queen’s castle with the Mission spreading out miles below us, your mind all concepts crawling and clawing from it, and we were drinking, chattering so excited about this Burning Man thing. Mr. Ra$pa and Marcia and ALL the wonderful people were there and I was so happy to have met you. Honored, actually. And we met a few times after that, at art openings, other parties, oh, so many Burning Man events, I can’t keep track of everything.

    But I know after that we nodded when we met eventually; a knowing nod. A join into the conversation nod, regardless of whose conversation it was. You shined so bright Mr. Ozan.

    I spent time inside your Dreamer on playa (inside the purple outside cathedral of your mind) and when I was in Golden Gate Park with tourists, I told my visitors who’d never heard of Burning Man that I knew the guy who created this and he was a good man. They were all astounded and we raised a beer to you.

    Then, there was that Bunny March year, must have been 2006, where you placed your Monicacos right off Center camp, left side of the walkway. They were so delightful . That Bunny March has so many pictures of Hares lounging on your sculptures there. I have sexy pictures Pepe, of Birds and Bambis on your art, but I’m sure you have volumes of the same.

    And Mr. Ozan, I was lucky to have met you again at Perlata Junction in Oakland late last year with your friend who was warm about her neck in beautiful fur; me and Ms. Leslie on the steps, you talking animated about your place in Lujan. You looked so beautiful, so full of what was next. I looked forward to seeing you again. But that won’t happen now.

    I trust that you found your way, the way you wanted, my friend. I will miss our eventual encounters. I will miss listening to you about what you’re doing. I will miss that glint in your handsome eye. Thank you for being a part of this whole Burning Man thing. Oh Pepe. Thank you, thank you. We will miss you. Have a safe journey my friend.

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  • Ray Cirino says:

    One of the greats that walked this earth. I remember in 2001 when I asked him if he would to be part of Mudance he sad yes. It meant a lot to me seeing a big smile on his face as he drummed as we all rolled in the mud. So many stories about him still to be told. He said once to me,”you are crazy sick and weird, but that’s why I like you.” Pepe was the man.

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  • While Pepe’s passing is a sad event, I choose to celebrate his art. He did so many aspects of art that it makes a great statement about him as wildly creative person. He put a lot of research into much of his art, going through a vooduan ritual for La Mystere of Papa Loko. I enjoyed reading his stories about his research.

    97 was my fist year. I saw the tower for the Daughters of Ishtar but missed the performance because I was not clued into what was going on. I was part of the Temple of Rhudra in 98 and participated in many meetings on creating a ritual that we would perform as well as what we would do during the week of Burning Man. The first meeting was at his studio to talk about the story of the Temple of Rhudra was and the meaning behind the 4 sects.

    The 98 opera was so many things, it was playa art, it was a fire performance and it was a theme camp. The towers were loaded with wood and burned beautifully with lightning like cracks in the dried mud on the towers.

    Pepe’s Rhudran figures were on display in a San Francisco gallery in 98 before Burning Man. Those of us in the opera and other groups did a mini parade from that gallery to Grove St where the Man was set up for an exhibition. It was an exciting time and a great experience for a Burning Man newbie.

    I thank Pepe for the weird and fun experiences and the great art he created.

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  • John Moon says:

    Wow, i’m at a lose for words. I LOVED everything Pepe did for us on the Playa. Such a great vision. 1996 opera was my 1st. It was amazing, raw and perfect. It made me want to come back to BRC. I told my close friends about the opera and its magic.

    Cheers to you Pepe for making life wonderful on the Playa. You’ll be missed.

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  • drdeb says:

    Pepe Ozan
    by Deborah “Dr Deb” Windham, on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 8:21pm

    Pepe ,where are you tonight,
    form gone,
    consciousness speeding through the stars,
    returning back to the place of
    could i have changed your mind?
    yes, i think so.
    But, only for awhile, Im sure.

    Dammit….did you think we would have a memorial for you? of course,you did…
    with all of us, artists and cultural creatives, as friends…
    you knew we would collect ourselves into the
    hoi-po-loi,chaos, and salvage our stories
    reminisce, weep, wondering why…
    drinking to your brute talent and skill…
    of course, you knew we would.
    we are your fabulous, sturdy, loyal, friends,
    the ones that you led through mud operas, fires, metalwork, wood, song, drums,films, india, tribes, myths, rituals, ceremonies,…
    laughing, pinching your brow, knowing it all, …dammit.

    you knew we would honor you ,
    you wanted us to,
    even though you might have scoffed at it.
    ok, let us prepare a ritual for you.
    a well conceived, ancient ceremony,
    that rivals the time you spent in your bath tub(your almost favorite spot in the world).
    sleep well old friend, fireplug, macho, man,
    your teeth broken.

    eating avocado on toast.
    cry for me.Argentina.
    burn bright in that place,
    as bright as you did here

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  • shibumi says:

    Pepe was a wildly creative, curious and proud prankster, maestro, instigator, lover of women, and Why … Oh Why, did you kill yourself before we talked about it, darling? I loved you; I’m sorry I made you mad; we were mad for each other, twice. I am sad that you’re gone.

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  • Alvarez María Cristina says:

    En el día internacional del arte ,rindo mi merecido homenaje al hombre que por encima de su vocación dejó un poco de su alma inquieta en mí , despertando el deseo de escribir y la búsqueda incesante de verdad .Querido Pepe siempre te recordarè con cariño Cristina !!!!

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  • Jordan Tenney aka 10E says:

    I never met him, but seeing photos of his earlier works and towers (before my first burn in 2002) was one of the inspirations for the tower installations I built to display at Burning Man. The time is always NOW to do what your heart tells you needs to be done.

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  • Anton says:

    Ah, Pepe. It was always a little scary to look into your eyes, the fire and vision was inspiring and very very large!
    We will all miss your long flowing hair. ;-)


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  • Muse says:

    I never met Pepe. But I was there in 1996 to see his opera. Truly amazing.

    I vividly remember watching as fire dancers danced around the spires, as fires were lit underneath each tower, as the flames rose and spat out the mouths of the gargoyles, as the actors slowly processed down the stairs just before the towers collapsed.

    For years afterwards, it remained seared in my memory. It was one of the most amazing sculptures and performances I had ever seen, and remains one of my key memories of the majesty of that year.

    I returned last year for the first time since then and was saddened to find out the opera was no more. May we all hold these, and all his art, in our memories. His art truly inspired.

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  • Big Cock says:

    Love you Pepe. Long live the lingum!
    ~Your Cock

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  • Through his enthusiasm, sweat and brilliance, Pepe fathered a community that rediscovered transformative rites of passage and invoked a sense of mystery and wonder on a grand scale. Working on the music for the Burning Man Operas was one of the pivotal experiences of my life, and I can’t even begin to count the friends I may never have met – or know SO DEEPLY – if it were not for Pepe and his wild imagination. And his ability to Make It Real. Thank you, dear Pepe. Give you a big hug.

    (You know those commercials about the Most Interesting Man In The World? They always remind me of Pepe.)

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  • Hellicopter Pete says:

    The opera at the Temple of Rudra in 1998 was an unforgettable experience for me. It was Saturday night and I should have been in Med camp from dehydration and alcohol poisoning. Instead I was in fetal position in my tent, occasionally emerging to dry heave. The opera was supposed to start at midnight (The Man burned on Sunday back then) and by pure luck, it didn’t start until 3am about the time I was well enough to walk out on the Playa and have some fun again. It was worth the wait, as no one present was disappointed except for maybe a few folks who timed a psychedelic trip to the original start time. Oops. We love you and miss you and your art Pepe….Much Love. –hp

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  • Martha Thompson says:

    I’m devastated by this news, but I feel so lucky to have worked with Pepe on the Burning Man opera from 1996-9. He welcomed me into his camp with open arms when I turned up on the playa weeks before the festival (and weeks before all my friends arrived) in ’96.

    I hadn’t seen Pepe since ’99, but it’s hard to overstate how large he looms in my memories of those years, and to the degree that my time at Burning Man has influenced my life, Pepe played a huge role in that. I remember him as flamboyant, larger-than-life, with an artistic vision that swept hundreds of us along with it as workers and artists and performers. I picture him striding around the playa, shirtless, with beaded necklaces in his dusty chest hair, smiling under his awesome mustache. I remember so many “mud runs” to Fly in his old horned pickup, so many cuts on my hands from all the hours spent sculpting metal mesh or mudding the towers. Pepe, it was a pleasure to bleed for you, and I wish I could do it again.

    I still have a metal mesh flower from the Daughters of Ishtar because he saw me working on it one day, praised it, and encouraged me to have it because it was “good art”. Hearing that praise from him just awed me and thrilled me completely. (I never thought of myself as an artist, but it was impossible to be around Pepe and not be inspired.)

    I hadn’t seen Pepe since ’99, but I’ve thought of him often and thought about tracking him down. Now I really wish I had. He was a friend, but he was also a towering figure and an inspiration at a particularly formative period in my life. Rest in peace, Pepe. See you on the playa in the next world.

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  • Manuel says:

    Que intensidad y que brabura la de este hombre…. Pepe ve haciendo sitio que ya pasaremos a hecharnos unos vinos , ver tu arte y darnos unos bailongos. Buen viaje amigo libre como el viento.

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  • woodduck says:

    my first burn in ’05, i visited “The Dreamer”that first night on the playa, and was moved to a new appreciation of true art!!! Thank you. Pepe

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  • Questing Bear says:

    Pepe was the best. A true artist in every sense. He was a very dedicated burner who I will miss alot. I will never forget him and his awesome Burning Man Opera’s.

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  • Peace, Pepe. I never met you except through your art, starting with Dreamer in my virgin year 2005, but with that and your 2006 surreal figures, I knew to depend on your art for my own inspiration. Ran into it again later a couple times in the Bay area with friends and declared to them: “Hey! That’s Pepe Ozan!” From their nonplussed reactions, I knew that I had come much closer than they through my Playa trips. This will be my ninth year, and I remember Pepe. I’ve missed him each year since ’06, thinking, “Where has he gone?” Now I know, and I’m saddened by the knowledge. May his memory be for a blessing and continued inspiration to all who were ever exposed to this great man or his art.

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  • Pepe, thank you for touching my life. You always been and will be my hero.
    Love and Peace, Werner

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  • spyder says:

    In the wayback machine (or more nearly two decades ago), i took my youngest son Buckethead to his third Burning Man. Pepe’s operas were a moment of pure and stellar artistic magic, and Buckethead (though on 3.5 at the time) wanted so much to make sure he saw the opera. The rain postponed the magic for several hours, but sure enough, when it was time, Buckethead awoke, rolled into his wagon, stood up to watch the entire thing, and then fell back asleep with a beautific smile on his face.
    That was how impactful and magical Pepe could be.

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  • WalkingOak says:

    As hard as many worked on the Ozan Operas, Pepe outworked us all. Each opera was a year of effort. Each year new books on strange religions appeared on his book shelves as Pepe extracted a ritual from an ancient or current belief, scripted an opera capable of producing the cathartic experience he wished his performers to undergo, designed a sculpture-stage capable also of forcing fire into art, of withstanding the playa winds, and of collapsing at an uncontrolled, random moment – aletorio, Pepe insisted. Moreover, Pepe’s inspired and recruited the vast skills needed to realize such a performance, there was music to compose, songs to write, choreograph to design, costumes to construct, performers to recruit and train, rehearsals to conduct – both before and during the event, and a theme camp to organize. My thanks to Pepe, to those whose skills made Pepe’s visions reality, and to the Burning Man Organization for funding. I join these many postings with thanks for amazing experiences, personal growth, appreciation of what focused dedication can make become reality, and profound respect for Pepe’s abilities as an artist and motivator. Que le vaya bien Pepe, como un huracan transformativo.

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  • ZOR says:

    Thank you Pepe. Your Operas rocked! They literally set the stage for what Burningman became. Performing in them set the tone for my Firedancing and how I would create and remain in character throughout the Burn and as much of my life as possible (for better and for worse, as the default world does not know how to deal with attitude and behavior out of its little box. I have met much resistance even from other Burners who did not experience the blessed truths of the opera and the early Burns, yet this relationship to life and darkness has been a crucial part of my dedicated spiritual path and I do not regret it).
    Indeed, as Burningman has slowly, disappointedly seen the critical Chaos replaced by overwhelming Order, it is your Opera that is so deeply missed.
    Thank you my friend. You live on.

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  • Milly Mohr says:

    In August of 1982, Nina Simone was staying with me and I took her to a party at Project Artaud where I introduced her to Pepe. Nina had told me that she liked being naked and wanted to go somewhere where we could be naked. I couldn’t take her up to Harbin so I suggested THE HOT TUBS on Van Ness. Well, she wanted Pepe to come along so we invited him. So, if he ever told anyone that story. It was true.

    I wish I would have known that Pepe did that Eagle Warrior sculture on Cesar Chavez. I love that sculpture so much. It gives me great pleasure every time I see it and I wish I could have told him that.

    Thank you Pepe. You were a true Renaissance man and sexy to the very end. You will be missed but your work will live on.

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  • Ed Martinez & Nina says:

    We just watched the documentary about Burning Man on Netflix which reminded us of Pepe, so we googled him and are very sad to have found this news. Yes, he had an intense and playful look in his eye that drew you in. He made the simplest acts sublime: sipping wine, talking about art and friendship. He really was the Most Interesting Man in the World. He was the real deal.

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