In 1957, a Georgia native returned to his family home near Buena Vista and began constructing one of the most significant art environments in the U.S. Eddie Owens Martin (1908–1986), the son of sharecroppers, created a world called “Pasaquan” and an elaborate new religion, of which he was the sole practitioner.
When Martin was in his twenties, voices in a fevered vision told him he was to become a “Pasaquoyan” named St. EOM and instructed him to depict a peaceful future for humanity. The home and seven acres he inherited became that depiction.
Martin built fences, pagodas, shrines, altars, walls, and walkways and embellished them with brightly painted totem faces, whirling mandalas, undulating snakes, and variously styled figures. All of it bears Martin’s perceptions of pre-Columbian Mexican temples and the fabled lost continents of Mu and Atlantis.
This was the first exhibition showing of Martin’s works that were recently gifted to the Arts Center by Kohler Foundation, Inc. Among them were paintings, sketches, and the artist’s ceremonial garb.
Jonathan Frederick Walz, director of curatorial affairs and curator of American art at The Columbus Museum, collaborated on the exhibition. Walz gave broader context to St. EOM’s art environment by positioning it with the work of Brazilian artist Gê Orthof, who also creates immersive, site-specific installations based on place and the sensorial reactions a place evokes.
In 2008, Pasaquan was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2013, the Kohler Foundation, Inc. embarked on an extensive restoration of the site. The stewardship of Pasaquan is under the direction of nearby Columbus State University. A small number of St. EOM’s works of art are stored, conserved, and placed in museum collections by Kohler Foundation to ensure survival in the event that a natural disaster might cause extensive damage at the site.
As an expert on American modernism and queer visual studies, Walz worked closely with artist Gê Orthof on a site-specific response to St. EOM and the inherent mystical qualities of Pasaquan. They visited the site together, and Orthof conceived the gallery installation as a continuation of the Pasaquoyan belief system. Walz’s essay below provides further insights on this collaboration.
Jonathan Frederick Walz is director of curatorial affairs and curator of American art at The Columbus Museum. Walz’s expertise is in American Modernism and supporting diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism in art and history.
Brazilian artist Gê Orthof responded to the vibrant works of Eddie Owens Martin (St. EOM) and the Pasaquan site in Buena Vista, GA, with original works of his own.
Jonathan Frederick Walz and Gê Orthof talk about the significance of Pasaquan and their response to this exhibition.
Join Jonathan Frederick Walz in this documented video of our Panel Discussion about THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED.
Read a special Q & A from the responder, Jonathan Frederick Walz, in our gallery handout.
If you want to learn even more about Eddie Owens Martin, you can purchase an in-depth publication from our online store or at ARTspace.
Dig deeper into conference sessions, view panelist bios and abstracts, read session descriptions, and continue the conversation in session forums by visiting The Road Less Traveled conference portal.
Through this web portal, you will be able to share new ideas and broaden the collective knowledge and appreciation of this unique style of art making that was the focus of a yearlong series of exhibitions at the Arts Center.Learn More
This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., Herzfeld Foundation and Sargento Foods Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible.
The Road Less Traveled 50th anniversary program was conceived by Amy Horst, deputy director for programming. The exhibitions series was organized and curated by Arts Center Curator Karen Patterson. Special thanks to Emily Schlemowitz, assistant curator, for the curation of Driftless: Nick Engelbert & Ernest Hüpeden and Folk & Fable: Levi Fisher Ames & Albert Zahn, and Amy Chaloupka, guest curator of The World in a Garden: Nek Chand and Volumes: Stella Waitzkin.