The Life and Times of a New York Drag Queen Turned Pasaquan Saint
Whenever he needed supplies, Eddie Owens Martin would dress up in drag queen regalia, open the doors of his beat-up old station wagon, and call his cats. Dozens would emerge from every corner of the yard and hop in for the short ride to Buena Vista, Georgia. In town, the cats would scatter to the four directions until Martin had finished his business. Once again he would call for the cats, who dutifully hopped in for the return journey.
Martin, who was better known as Saint EOM by then, had spent most of his youth wandering the streets of New York City. He made pocket change by telling fortunes, painting portraits of his fellow drag queens, and working as a con artist. Without the high fever that gripped him one cold winter day, he might have died on the streets, unknown and bound for a pauper’s grave.
In his delirium, Martin was visited by a tall being from another world. The alien introduced himself as a Pasaquan and told Martin to change his ways or he would die. He also instructed him to return to his childhood home in Georgia and build a place to honor the Pasaquan race.
Martin changed his name to St. EOM and, around 1955, moved into the Buena Vista house left to him by his late mother. For the next 30+ years, using bricks and stones from the site, he created a complex of six major structures connected by a series of painted masonry walls, colorful concrete sculptures, and an assortment of landscape elements.
When he wasn’t building or painting, St. EOM continued to tell fortunes. One of the more spectacular stories from those days involves three Vietnam War veterans who drove up to the house. Two asked to have their fortunes told but the third man said he wasn’t interested and remained in the car. Upon leaving, St. EOM handed one of the men a slip of paper for the third man. On it he had written, “You have no future.” According to the legend, shortly after driving off they crashed and the third man was killed.
St. EOM often talked about the screen in the back of his head where he saw his visions. He was told that the word Pasaquan was a combination of the Spanish verb pasar (to happen) and quan, which means the future in some Oriental language. Pasaquan, therefore, was a place where in the future, all races, colors, sexes, and creeds would come together to live peacefully.
Martin did his utmost to bring that vision to reality within the walls of the house he called Pasaquan. Nearly every inch of the stone walls and buildings were painted with murals that represented the world he envisioned. Eerie sculptures of the alien Pasaquans stand sentinel at entrances to the compound, always levitating slightly above the ground. Each morning, EOM would dance in the giant sandpit that stood in the center of the compound – some say entirely naked – and then meditate. At end of day, he did the same dance in reverse. Many locals claim it was a rain dance because he made it rain.
Inside the original 1880’s farmhouse he created a “Reverberation room,” with a giant mandala painted on the wall. St. EOM could make the mandala rotate by concentrating on the spirals. The “Sanctuary” room showed the way to your destination, but it couldn’t be reached in a straight line. Indeed, from a window caved into the wall of an adjacent room I could see a paradisaical scene, but to get to it I had to follow a circular path into the room.
The artist shot and killed himself in 1986. Over time, Pasaquan’s walls crumbled and paintings faded in the Georgia heat and humidity. Fortunately, residents of Buena Vista, who had come to accept the eccentric St. EOM over the years, formed the Pasaquan Preservation Society to rescue the seven-acre property. Today Pasaquan is undergoing a complete renovation courtesy of The Kohler Foundation. Pasaquan was subsequently gifted to Columbus State University (CSU), which appointed Professor Mike McFalls in the University’s Department of Art to oversee the completion of the site. Although not yet officially open, visitors are welcome to drop by during the week to watch the artists at work.
A grand opening is planned for for the site in October of this year. In life, Eddie Owens Martin was a guru with few followers. In death, he may finally achieve the recognition he sought when Pasaquan is finally unveiled to the world at large.
Author’s disclosure: I was a guest of ExploreGeorgia.org during my Georgia tour. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.