Eddie Owens Martin was born at the stroke of midnight on July 4, 1908 to sharecroppers in the rural southern town of Glen Alta, Georgia. Perceiving himself as an outsider, Eddie left the South as a teen and spent most of his adulthood working as a street hustler in New York. There, Eddie had his first vision of Pasaquan, and when he moved back to Buena Vista, Georgia in 1957, he changed his name to St. EOM and began what would become his life’s work. The site, seven acres of brightly painted masonry walls, is currently being renovated. We talk with site director, Michael McFalls, about St. EOM and his Pasaquoyan legacy.
The 900-feet of concrete walls built by St. EOM are adorned with his interpretations of symbols from many different cultures and religions. While most visionary artists (e.g. Howard Finster) are inspired by their Christian faith and incorporate Christian imagery into their art, St. EOM’s work is much different. St. EOM built Pasaquan after he was visited by Pasaquoyans from the future in a fever dream. They urged him to create “a utopian society that’s pluralistic and accepting of all,” which, Michael admits, might be “kind of scary,” to potential visitors.
Through our conversation with Michael, we discovered that St. EOM was as much a work of art as Pasaquan. He made his own clothes and frequently adorned a self-fashioned headdress. He made a living in Buena Vista by telling fortunes, and some people believed him to be a witch doctor. Michael suggests that Eddie Martin intentionally cultivated myths about the character of St. EOM to insulate himself in a small community where he never felt like he belonged. Regardless, St. EOM is his own piece of art, as carefully curated as the concrete sculptures and painted walls of Pasaquan.
We hoped that visiting Pasaquan would provide us with insight into St. EOM’s artistic purpose, but instead we came away from the site unsettled and overwhelmed. Pasaquan is a house, but it is also a work of art with complex images that evoke sensory and visceral responses. Similarly, Eddie Owens Martin was a real human being and a talented artist, but he also cultivated the character of St. EOM whose mythic persona has only grown since Eddie’s death in 1986. While we left Pasaquan with more questions than answers, we feel certain of at least one thing: St. EOM attempted to build a better future with the tools he had, and that’s a noble goal.
We would like to thank today’s special guest, Michael McFalls. We would also like to thank everyone involved in the preservation of Pasaquan. The site will reopen with a festival on October 22, 2016, and we encourage our listeners to take the trip down to Buena Vista to see St. EOM’s utopia in person.
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