Have you heard of Pasaquan? Not sure what it is? Short answer: It’s a unique folk art installation/collection in middle Georgia, just south of Columbus created by Eddie Owens Martin (St EOM.) But the long answer is much more interesting!
I adore visiting places where nature and art collide. It’s heaven on earth for me, so I’ve had Pasaquan on my bucket list for ages.
Today, Pasaquan is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered among the most important visionary art environments in the United States.
It just recently reopened after a two-year repair project, so it was time to hit the road for a visit.
After our visit, I was even more enamored as I read about the history of St EOM…and honestly, my intention was to write about that. However, after doing some research, I found many other websites with beautifully written prose on the subject. So don’t skip reading these…like this one, or this one…
And here is a video we made while there with a high-level overview of the Pasaquan origin story:
Correction about this video….
I mention that from the time St EOM died until the Kohler Foundation swept in, the installation was left in disarray. Wrong, wrong, wrong I have since learned.
“What actually happened is that a group of local people formed a non-profit, the Pasaquan Preservation Society, and held the place together for 30 years, until we could find pockets deep enough to undertake the complete restoration. This was not an easy task, and it was not an inexpensive one. But the Pasaquan Preservation Society did just what we set out to do — We preserved the place. We staged many events there, we paid the electric and other bills, we hired caretakers, we fought the elements, we opened to the public … and, finally, after years and years of searching for funds, we finally found a donor, the Kohler Foundation, willing to restore the site. Just wanted you to know that a few people were hard at work preserving Pasaquan for almost 30 years.” — Cathy Fussell, Founding Board Member, Pasaquan Preservation Society.
My sincere apologies to this group…I wasn’t dismissing their effort…I just didn’t know! Thanks for correcting me, Cathy!
Learning From St EOM and Pasaquan
I don’t want to romanticize Eddie Owns Martin. From what I have read, he was no Mother Theresa.
He worked questionable jobs, sometimes welcomed people and sometimes shooed them away. He was eccentric, that’s for certain. Part genius, part shaman, and some would say part crazed
Regardless of your impression, his artistic masterpieces cannot be ignored. So.. I contemplated what I learned about his life. That I will learn from it.
I hope you take these lessons to heart…and soak them in with a visit to Pasaquan yourself.
Sometimes our talents are under-valued, but that shouldn’t stop us
When Eddie was in New York City, he sold his paintings and jewelry. He was never really acknowledged as a great artist then…he did get a small mention in the Village Voice about being a “colorful character.” But nothing monumental.
Still he didn’t let that stop him. When he moved back to Georgia, he worked tirelessly on Pasaquan. He didn’t appear at all persuaded by a lack of notoriety. In fact, when journalists or tourists showed up to his home, he often didn’t even bother to greet them.
Eddie even said, “… you can’t be a natural person in this society, man, ’cause they’ll ostracize the shit out of you every way they can. Believe me, ’cause I know.”
The take-away? Don’t worry about the acceptance of your art. Just do it. Do it for yourself. Do it because you love it.
The bad times will shape us; make sure they shape us for good
Eddie’s dad was an ass, apparently. In one account I read, a nearby family gave Eddie a puppy, and his dad killed it. Presumably because the family that gave it to him was black. Pain, on so many levels.
Eddie also worked some really crummy jobs…he was even a “hustler” for a while…gambling…selling drugs.
BOMB reported this quote from Eddie, “I couldn’t afford canvases and paints, so I’d pick up cardboard boxes from the street and draw on ’em. Sometimes I’d make frames outta old scraps of wood that I carved on.”
But here is also what they reported:
“I really didn’t ever know what I wanted to be in life until I began to dabble in the arts and learned to depend on that inner voice and got curious about all these religions and began to believe in myself.”
I hesitate to even think about the beauty we would have missed out on if Eddie followed in the footsteps of his dad as a sharecropper in Georgia.
The take-away? Bad stuff happens. Only you have control of how those experiences shape you.
You can follow your passions, but you still have to work hard
I love traveling and writing on this blog. I could do it 24/7…I am not kidding you (and my husband and kids might swear that I do!) But life is about balance, right?
Eddie inherited the house on which Pasaquan stands from his mom after she passed away. He worked as a fortune-teller to support himself.
In the end, it dragged him down. He was tired of hearing depressing stories from his clients. St EOM took his own life in 1986, leaving a note that read, “No one is to blame but me and my past.”
The take-away? Finding the right life-balance is difficult, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t stop trying…and lean on your village when you can. Eddie knew that in his heart as evidenced by the yin-yang depictions throughout Pasaquan. How much more rich we would all be today if he had practiced that balance.
When passion hits, there is no stopping it
St EOM was not only an artist, but he developed a one-man religion – Pasaquoyanism. And while that might be offensive to some…I am inspired by his ingenuity and passion.
It was the creation of this religion that prompted the name change from Eddie to St EOM (pronounced Ohm,) and he spent three decades practicing.
“Pasaquoyanism has to do with the Truth, and with Nature, and the Earth, and man’s lost rituals,” St EOM said according to Columbus State University. And that is what inspired his art.
The take-away? Not everyone is going to look fondly upon your passion. Not everyone will understand it. In fact, passion can also be defined as suffering and agony. But don’t let that stop you…ever.
We can re-invent ourselves, if we desire
I grew up in a military family. We moved constantly. When I tell people this they sometimes feel sorry for me. I have never seen it as a negative. There are a number of amazing perks…one of them was the ability to re-invent myself every time I moved.
But – you don’t have to move in order to do this.
Re-inventing yourself is about moving beyond your immediate, “urgent living” self and focusing on your future-self and what you can achieve.
Eddie worked diligently to re-invent himself after his visions. He made outward changes (his hair and beard, most notably) and inward changes.
We know some people didn’t “get it.” He lost some friends along the way…but that’s growth, right?
The take-away? Reinvention means Change . Embrace it. And do it deliberately with foresight.
Work toward a place where all cultures and ethnic groups can come together in harmony
Columbus State defines Pasaquan as representing “the future. It is his personal utopia, where all cultures and ethnic groups can come together in harmony and connect with the earth and the universe.
At Pasaquan, St EOM incorporated both spiritual concepts from ancient cultures and futuristic ideas of levitation transportation. In the end, St. EOM was able to communicate the traditions of Pasaquoyanism to the viewers of the future with colorful, pluralistic designs that cover the entire site.”
Is that not the coolest thing you’ve ever heard? It’s totally my favorite part!
Can you imagine if our entire world were a place where differences were celebrated instead of shunned? Where we respected curiosity …without fear of something unfamiliar?
We can’t live at Pasaquan…and we can’t make the world entirely Pasaquoyan. But we can strive for harmony within ourselves and our immediate community and family. And that is the best gift we can give our future selves.
The take-away? What are you doing to bring a little bit of Pasaquan to your world? Connection with each other is the ultimate goal, right? With our kids…our spouse…our family…our friends. Can you reach outside of your comfort zone and build that connection beyond your own culture and ethnic group, too? The future is worth it.
What we do today matters tomorrow, even if we live in seclusion
Pasaquan has far out-lived St EOM. He resided as a recluse…preferred to be alone…but the work he brought the world is genius and touches lives all over the nation.
I have no idea how he would have felt about his home dubbed one of “16 Intriguing Things to See and Do in the U.S. in 2016.” by CNN. Maybe elated? Maybe annoyed?
What I do know is that the work you do today will make an impact on tomorrow.
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a Congressman for that to be so. You can be a mom or a dad…a nail salon tech…a teacher…anyone living passionately.
The take-away? Today matters. You may think you aren’t reaching other people…but you are. You’re making a difference. And if you don’t think so, then consider Eddie Owens Martin as proof.
Stay Tuned: We are currently working on a scavenger hunt of Pasaquan…can’t wait to bring it to you! Our kids are helping; we think it will be a great way to enjoy this beautiful art with your young ones.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.
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