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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.