The self-taught artist and Georgia native St. EOM established the visionary art site Pasaquan in the mid-1950s. Located in Marion County, Pasaquan is maintained and operated today by Columbus State University, which assumed control of the site in 2016.
St. EOM was born Eddie Owens Martin on July 4, 1908, in Marion County to Lydia Pearl and Julius Roe Martin, a sharecropper. In 1922, seeking to escape the rural life of his parents, he left home and ultimately moved to New York City, where he began to study art in the city’s museums and libraries.
After living in New York for about a decade, Martin had a series of visions while suffering from a high fever. In his visions, three “people of the future” from a place called Pasaquan selected him to depict, through art, a peaceful future for human beings. After receiving these visions, Martin began to call himself St. EOM.
According to St. EOM, the Pasaquan messengers instructed him to “return to Georgia and do something.” His response was the establishment of Pasaquan, a visionary art site that he began building around 1955.
Covering seven acres in Marion County, the Pasaquan artscape includes six buildings, the oldest of which is a late-nineteenth-century farmhouse. Both the interior and exterior walls of the structures are painted in vibrant colors and bold patterns, often incorporating human figures and nature imagery. The buildings are connected by painted concrete walls, which often feature raised sculptural elements. More than 2,000 pieces of St. EOM’s artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings, are also housed at Pasaquan.
St. EOM, who committed suicide in April 1986, bequeathed Pasaquan to the Marion County Historical Society, which later formed the Pasaquan Preservation Society. The Marion County Historical Society also arranged for the placement of St. EOM’s work in a number of museums around the country, including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; the American Folk Art Museum in New York City; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California. In Georgia, St. EOM’s work is part of the collections at the Albany Museum of Art in Albany and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
In 2014 the Pasaquan Preservation Society, Columbus State University, and the Wisconsin-based Kohler Foundation partnered to refurbish and preserve the site. After two years of work, the site reopened on October 22, 2016. Columbus State students, professional art restorers, and local artisans participated in the site’s renewal. Columbus State was charged with caring for Pasaquan in the future and now operates the site.