Who is Cesar The artist and the great-uncle

Cesar Papa, born in 1953, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He was the sixth of eight brothers and sisters. Since his early childhood, he showed interest and ability in the artistic world.

In 1981, Papa became a student of the Visual Arts' first class at the newly opened Dulcina de Moraes Faculty of Arts, in Brasilia. In following years, he participated in exhibitions, academic art shows and also initiated the Women Series, one he would develop throughout his entire career. 5 years later, in 1986, Papa moved to Laguna Beach, California, looking to make a career as a full-time artist. The two subsequent years were all about heavy production, collective and individual exhibitions. Great part of the quest for the artist in himself as well as Papa's life in the US was registered in letters he wrote to his family, in pictures he took and in artworks he sold.

This process was interrupted in 1989, when Papa found out he had AIDS and decided to return to Brazil. Cesar Papa died in 1991, in Brasilia, Brazil.

Cesar Papa was also my great-uncle. Unfortunately I did not have the chance to meet him.

Capture d’écran 2020-11-15 à 20.36.41.
Capture d’écran 2020-11-15 à 20.36.52.

Los Angeles (Venice Beach) aug/86 this beach is the craziest thing in the world. it's worth a walk just to see the people who go there. fascinating! see pic #57

"You would've loved to have met each other" – When the project began

I found pictures, tons of them. Pictures people kept of him, pictures he stored himself. On the back, there were always some notes: date, location, the names of the people on the photo, sometimes even his impressions of the place or the city.

During the last five years, I was able to meet my great-uncle through some of his personal documents, many pictures and also through letters (written, in audio and video). I've gathered many items that today constitute a collection with nearly 800 documents, which also tell many stories about one's life. I've listened to him: the opera he left playing as a soundtrack because he was sad and missed Brazil. His long breath smoking a cigarette. The sound of pencil on the paper, as he recorded letters while he drew.


His care and accuracy with information caught my attention from the beginning. Is it possible to get to know someone just by memories, stories people shared with me, letters and photographs? 


Today, in some way, I can say I know Cesar.

Laguna Beach, 86 "when I'm in a project, my mind is already working on the next ones, you know? there's always this notebook full of sketches, thousands of projects that come to my mind."

The portrait of an artist The three branches of dear cesar

Cesar was an artist, an immigrant, a gay man. He was fascinated by life. From his closest friends to people who came across him just once, Cesar is still able to move people when they talk about him. He inspires people on how to live and love.

As an artist and a researcher, in my work, I celebrate Cesar's documents my family has kept: it's about asking questions to the photographs, seeking the details and letting the mementos talk to me. That's how I try to bring these memories to life.


This project also honors family archives. We're all seeking museums and libraries in a quest for ancestry, while our own collections and oral history also have something to say. Cesar represents what we are quickly losing to technology and time – as we fill our phones and hard drives without questioning why or how to find it later. He represents the culture of memory – one which so many people were deprived of and a few governments still try to keep vanished.

So far, this project is presented in three branches:


Cesar Papa Collection

cataloguing, ordering and conserving over 700 records

– letters, pictures, documents, tapes

the collection is available online


following my great-uncle's steps in the world

going to the places he went and looking for the people he met