Eddie Owens Martin (1908–1986), a self-taught artist who called himself “St. EOM”, spent the last half of his unconventional life building a spectacular, visionary art environment he named “Pasaquan” on four acres near Buena Vista, a town in Marion County in the southeastern part of the US state of Georgia, where he had been born. He bankrolled this ambitious project with his income from his work as a psychic reader, in which he advised clients about the future.
The son of sharecroppers, Martin left Georgia in 1922, headed to New York City and hustled his way there through the second quarter of the twentieth century, teaching himself to paint and reinventing himself as the streetwise backwoods prophet his clients would later come to know. Returning to Georgia in the 1950s following his mother’s death and responding to visions he had had while once suffering from a high fever in New York, he set about transforming his family home and the land around it. Not long before depression and various physical ailments led St. EOM to commit suicide in 1986, he predicted that Pasaquan would be destroyed after his own death, a prophecy, which fortunately has not been fulfilled.
In 1987, The Jargon Society, a North Carolina-based small press, published my book, St. EOM in the Land of Pasaquan. It helped spark interest in St. EOM’s visionary landmark beyond Georgia, but credit for its survival is owed largely to a dedicated group of local and regional supporters who make up the non-profit, Buena Vista-based Pasaquan Preservation Society. The history of its management of the property provides an instructive lesson in the care and custody of visionary art environments after their creators have died.
Caption: Painted columnar sculptures at the front entrance to Pasaquan; photo: Roger Manley, 1986