Like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Eddie Owens Martin was born on the Fourth of July, in 1908 in rural Marion County near Buena Vista, Ga.
By the time he died in 1986, he had created Pasaquan.
Ah, yes. Pasaquan. The story is, Martin became ill in the late 1930s and in a fever-induced haze, had visions of a world where tall people with long hair styled into high conical shapes lived. These people wore power suits that pressed certain body parts so they could levitate and move around.
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Martin’s parents were sharecroppers in Marion County. By the time he was 14, Martin had left Georgia, wandered through Florida and made his way to New York City, where he created a new “family” of artists, musicians and poets. To make a living, he told fortunes and cooked and sold soul food to homesick Southerners.
His mother bought about 200 acres of land for $3,000 in Marion County during the Depression and started a small dairy farm. The creamery business was successful and she paid off the loan in two years, said local historian and Pasaquan expert Fred Fussell.
When she died in 1957, she left the small two-room house and five acres to Martin. Right after his mother died, Martin, who was already calling himself St. EOM, began building additions to the house. The walls included brightly painted, colossal sculptures of those levitating beings.
He was still living in New York and making trips to Georgia. By 1959, he was living in Buena Vista. And a year later, Fussell said “he started losing control and really started building” what is Pasaquan today.
“Every small town has its eccentric character,” Fussell said. “We had the king.”
Martin became a familiar figure wandering around Buena Vista, shopping and chatting with people. He was easily recognizable in his embellished ponchos, slacks adorned with bells and straw hats decorated with sea shells.
Fussell’s first meeting
When Fussell was a teenager, he made his way to Buena Vista to get his fortune told.
“I don’t remember that much of it,” he said. “I do remember that he told me not to go to Florida and to stay away from Panama City. That was probably damned good advice, but I didn’t take it.”
Later, when Fussell was the curator of art at the Columbus Museum, he made a trip to Pasaquan to borrow artifacts for an exhibit. Fussell said they slowly became friends.
Frequent visitors to Pasaquan will be saddened to see the deterioration of the house and grounds. Photographs on display throughout the house, show what Pasaquan looked like before the elements faded the paint and made it flake and the concrete crumble.
Fussell now says it will take about $2 million to preserve the outer walls, sculptures and outbuildings, which include a carport, cover for the propane gas tank and a two-story structure that covers the well and houses a workshop upstairs.
A separate guest house which can’t be seen from the main house, has the familiar Pasaquoyan figures, but is largely unpainted. Fussell said Martin never finished the painting of that house.
There is another building, which kind of resembles a sweat lodge, but Fussell is unsure of what purpose it served.
What’s inside the house
The house, which grew from two rooms, now has an additional seven rooms plus a bathroom. The interior murals and paintings are, as expected, in much better shape, though some of the paint is beginning to peel in places.
One of the rooms, where he tried to levitate, is off limits: the floor has crumbled. But visitors can still see the vibrant murals with the floating Pasaquoyans.
There are discs made of felt or painted on walls where one can contemplate while watching the discs “undulate” — move in a smooth, wavelike motion. Fussell said that’s what Martin did: Meditate while sitting in front of them.
It’s amazing to see all of the creations he made with concrete, tin, found objects, fabric, leather, shells and bells. He made a lot of his own clothing.
The only room that is plain and unadorned is Martin’s bedroom, where he committed suicide. A note said, “No one is to blame but me and my past.”