Eddie Owens Martin, Untitled, n.d. watercolor and graphite on paper, 10 x 12.5 inches
Eddie Owens Martin
Pasaquoyan in the City: Fashioning a Southern Saint
Curated by Annie Moye and Michael McFalls
September 26 – November 3, 2018
Institute 193 (1B), New York
Pasaquoyan in the City: Fashioning a Southern Saint, the inaugural exhibit at Institute 193’s East Village space, (1B), which opens on September 26, 2018, features a mostly never-before-seen collection of works by the late artist Eddie Owens Martin, or St. EOM, as he later called himself. Born in rural Marion County, Georgia, in 1908, Martin hitchhiked his way to New York City’s Greenwich Village at the age of fourteen to pursue a life of adventure, culture, and revelry that he couldn’t enjoy on his family’s farm back in the South. Supporting himself as a hustler, a fortune teller, and a waiter, he absorbed as much of the art world as he could and relished the company of drag queens, drug dealers, and other partiers, who later become the subjects in his drawings.
During an illness in 1935, Martin received his first vision from a futuristic, gender-bending alien who called on him to follow the “true way,” the path of a new religion called Pasaquoyanism. Martin agreed, became the world’s first Pasaquoyan, and began transitioning his identity from Eddie Owens Martin to St. EOM. St. EOM would remain in New York for twelve years, developing his spiritual belief system and honing his craft as a budding artist. Though he never received much recognition for his art in NYC, he continued to exhibit at small street festivals and was even featured in a short piece in the Village Voice in May 1957. By that time, however, the southern saint had had enough of the city and decided to return to his recently deceased mother’s farm outside of Buena Vista, Georgia.
There, he worked as a card reader—“the poor man’s psychiatrist,” he said—for members of the local community and began construction on his magnum opus, the seven-acre art environment he called Pasaquan, to which he would devote the last thirty years of his life. Today, thirty-two years after his death and two years removed from the completion of a major restoration project by the Kohler Foundation, Pasaquan is as vibrant and fascinating as ever. Owned and operated by Columbus State University, the site allows visitors to explore the “pre-Colombian, psychedelic wonderland,” as St. EOM’s biographer, Tom Patterson, once dubbed it, every weekend during the academic year. The drawings and sketchbooks presented in this exhibition were selected from a collection of 1200 drawings found in steamer trunks in an attic at Pasaquan.
These drawings have never been exhibited and were probably never removed from their trunks after Eddie moved back to Georgia from NYC. Many of the sketches recently saw the light of day after they were gifted to the Columbus State University Archives. The drawings selected reflect the time St. EOM spent in New York post-vision and pre-Pasaquan, as he was building his new identity and belief system and advancing his unique artistic style that has become so iconic.
Inspired by the eccentric characters and personalities he met in the city, St. EOM obsessively worked on portraits and fashion designs that often blurred the line between reality and Pasaquoyan fantasy. In these early drawings, one can sense the immediacy of his vision, the urgency of creation, and the depth of his passion. Primarily created between 1935 and 1957, these works reflect a saint-in-progress and an ideology in the making. The exhibit also features a peek into St. EOM’s self-styled and handmade wardrobe, including one of the extraordinary outfits he wore on the grounds of Pasaquan as a fully-fashioned southern saint.