If you look at a map of the state of Georgia, the town of Buena Vista likely won’t be on it. Less than 2,500 residents live there and there’s only one bed and breakfast, which is also one of the few restaurants. Blink when driving through downtown and you’ll miss it entirely.
But the detour from Columbus was one generations of travelers and soldiers from nearby Fort Benning made for decades. Rumors were spread between siblings and families about an elaborate and colorful artist’s home and a man who could read fortunes for a small fee. Some locals still note how accurate his predictions were.
There are few facts about the man named Eddie Owens Martin, but here are the few. He was born near the town in 1908 to a family of sharecroppers and ran away to New York City at age 14, where he worked as an artist and prostitute, among other things.
He became a notable drag queen called the Tattooed Contessa and started having visions. It was then that he took on his St. EOM persona and dreamed of a future race of people.
A few years later, he later moved home to Georgia to help his parents. It was here that he made his home and created his version of the ideal society. He called it Pasaquan to mean, in his opinion, where the past meets the future.
The home took on a life of its own, developing into 30 years worth of drawings, murals, sculptures and visionary art. Geometric patterns and figures covered every inch of concrete and St. EOM himself wore turbans, head dresses, and ponchos that made him stand out against the Buena Vista locals.
Martin committed suicide in 1986 and bequeathed Pasaquan to the Columbus Museum of Art, which then passed it onto the Marion County Historical Society. They formed the Pasaquan Preservation Society, which cared for the site for sporadic visitors until 2014.
It had fallen into disrepair, with fading paint and crumbling concrete. Snakes had made their home in the tall grasses when it was gifted to the Kohler Foundation, who, with the help of groups like Parma Conservation and International Artifacts, have brought St. EOM’s vision back to life.
Tours will be available to groups and individual visitors with a suggested donation only. It will be $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for students, but you are welcome to donate more. You’ll be able to see the colorful grounds as well as the interior of the home, complete with the mandalas and sculptures. The facility will be open Thursday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm but closed on holidays and the months of December and July.
While Pasaquan is the best place to see St. EOM’s work, the nearby The Columbus Museum and LaGrange Art Museum each have exhibits on the artist’s work, including some of the thousands of sketches, paintings and decorative pieces he made over the years.
The Marion County Historical Society also placed his work in museums around the country, including Atlanta’s High Museum of Art and Albany, Georgia’s Albany Museum of Art as well as Washington DC’s National Museum of American Art, New York’s American Folk Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.