Eddie Owens Martin

 

Martin was a painter, sculptor, and builder whose crowning achievement was Pasaquan, the boldly painted, sculpturally elaborated, architectural environment that he createdin Marion County, Georgia. The son of a sharecropper, Martin spent his early years in a nearby farming community, but fled his abusive father at fourteen andhitchhiked to New York City, where he lived by his wits from the 1920s to 1940s. During a serious illness in 1935, he had a near-death experience that concludedwhen a larger-than-life apparition offered to restore his health if he would promise to lead a more spiritually attuned life. A few months later, he had another visionaryexperience, accompanied by a voice that bestowed on him a new name, “Saint EOM,” and a mysterious title, “Pasaquoyan,” which he later interpreted as an arcanereference to the conjoining of past, present, and future times.These experiences occurred during a period when Martin was beginning to draw and paint, and they immediately preceded his adopting a flamboyant persona. Hestopped shaving and having his hair cut, and he began to design and make his own apparel, based on clothing traditionally worn in India, ancient Egypt, sub-SaharanAfrica, parts of Asia, and the indigenous Americas. Educating himself on the cultural and spiritual traditions of such locales by reading and going to museums, he beganto incorporate variations on nonWestern designs and iconography into his own artwork.For the last half of his life, Martin supported himself as a psychic reader, initially working in a tearoom on 42nd Street, then moving his business to Georgia after hismother’s death in 1950. She left him her small farmhouse and four surrounding acres, and in 1957 he went there to live year-round. By 1960 he had begun building Pasaquan, which eventually consisted of five separate, roofed structures of varying sizes and designs, as well as a series of elaborately painted and sculpted walls,walkways, and staircases, all reflecting influences of the various non-Western artistic and architectural traditions that had for so long interested him.Martin continued his creative activities until shortly before his tragic death. Weakened and depressed after a series of health problems, he committed suicide with a gunshot to the right temple on April 16, 1986. Martin’s deteriorating Pasaquan environment is currentlyin the custody of the Pasaquan Society, a non-profit subsidiary of the Marion County Historical Society, in Buena Vista, Georgia.