FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PASAQUAN VISIT: www.pasaquan.com
On October 28th, the LaGrange Art Museum will open In the Land of Pasaquan: The Story of Eddie Owens Martin (October 28, 2016 – August 5, 2017) in partnership with Columbus State University and the Kohler Foundation.
The exhibit will feature a large selection of never-before-seen original drawings, sculptures, paintings, regalia, adornments, and other examples of art by St. EOM. Through the use of original art, informational text panels, and vintage and contemporary photographs, this colorful exhibit will tell the incredible story of the life of the creator of Pasaquan, and will also portray the recent restoration of Pasaquan by the Kohler Foundation.
The many original artworks that are included in this exhibition are on extended loan to the LaGrange Art Museum from the collection of Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia. Terms of the loan allow the Museum to travel the exhibit throughout the state and nation drawing attention and focus to the Presidential Pathways region and LaGrange.
Pasaquan is a 7-acre visionary art site located near Buena Vista in Marion County developed by the late Eddie Owens Martin (1908-1986) a self-taught Southern artist who drew inspiration from many colorful cultures to create its six major structures, murals, and painted decorative masonry walls.
Nearly 30 years after the artist’s death – long after the brightly painted masonry had begun to fade literally and figuratively — the Kohler Foundation, the Pasaquan Preservation Society and Columbus State University partnered to bring this extraordinary art environment back to life.
In 2015, Governor Nathan Deal presented the Pasaquan Preservation Society with the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities for its efforts to help preserve Pasaquan; and in 2016, two years of hard work and perseverance spent restoring the 60-year old Georgia gem paid off as CNN dubbed Pasaquan one of “16 intriguing things to see and do in the U.S. in 2016.”
Following the two-year restoration process, the Kohler Foundation gifted Pasaquan to Columbus State University’s Foundation.
When asked how the LaGrange Art Museum fit into the Pasaquan picture, Museum Director Karen Anne Briggs said that, “As amazing as the site it, conditions and space at the site don’t allow for all of the work by this artist to be shown.”
Following a lead from the Stockbridge, Massachusetts donor who loaned the Museum his Norman Rockwell collection, Briggs ventured down to Buena Vista and happened to be at the right place at the right time. More than a little surprised when asked to partner with Columbus State University and the Kohler Foundation she readily agreed. “It was an unbelievable opportunity to be a part of something very large – regionally, nationally and internationally — that we would never have had the opportunity to do on our own. We are the only off-site venue to play this large a role in the project.” “We are grateful that we can play a part in providing safe harbor to works which cannot be seen on-site at the visionary art environment and whose condition requires a climate controlled, indoor environment. We hope that when viewed together, the site and the Museum’s exhibit will provide a complete look at the Land of Pasaquan and enable thousands to view this large body of work and hear the full story of our own indigenous eccentric genius.”
In 2016, the Museum’s exhibit Norman Rockwell, the Man Behind the Canvas, toured to a number of museums across the country providing the Museum with revenue and taking the LaGrange Art Museum to almost 30,000 people. “This show also has the potential to provide us with revenue and will allow thousands more to view the exhibit and learn about our Georgia artists,” said Board President, Bobby Cammon.” “Pasaquan has local, regional, national and international significance. It has been embraced by the Georgia Department of Tourism, by Georgia’s Presidential Pathways Region and by multiple Chambers of Commerce including our own. We are thrilled with the partnership we have with CSU and grateful to Charlie & Joy Flint for their vision in encouraging this partnership”.
Putting an exhibit of this magnitude together was not an easy task and required the help of many experts including noted Georgia Humanities Scholar Fred C. Fussell who curated the collection. Fussell is an artist, documentary photographer, writer, and independent curator whose work focuses on the traditional culture of the American South. His recent professional activities include serving as a consultant for Kohler Foundation during its restoration of Pasaquan; designing and curating exhibits for the Gertrude “Ma” Rainey House and Blues Museum in Columbus, GA; serving as a curatorial consultant for The Carter Family Memorial Music Center in Hiltons, VA; curating travelling exhibits for the Alabama Humanities Foundation; writing humanities related articles for The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, The New Georgia Guide, and The Historic Chattahoochee Commission; and writing conservation analyses for the American Folklore Society on two endangered art sites in Mississippi. His books include “Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina” (UNC Press), “A Chattahoochee Album”, “Pot Liquor”, and “Memory Paintings of an Alabama Farm” (HCC). In 2004, his book, Blue Ridge Music Trails, was awarded the Presidential Award for Heritage Tourism by President George W. Bush.
When talking about St. EOM, Fussell smiles. “He was an eccentric who lived a larger-than-life life, that’s for sure.” Fussell frequently quotes the late St. EOM, and one of his favorite quotes is: “You’re gonna be the start of somethin’ new, and you’ll call yourself ‘Saint EOM,’ and you’ll be a Pasaquoyan – the first one in the world.”
St. EOM certainly was the first one in the world and probably, the last. His artistic journey started at age 14 when he left his hometown of Buena Vista, Georgia, to embark on a hitchhiking adventure to Atlanta and Washington, D.C., before settling in New York. In the Big Apple, he worked as a street hustler, bartender, gambler and drag queen. He even gave fortunetelling a try at age 37.
In 1957, after the death of his mother, Martin came home to Georgia and continued his fortunetelling flair for pay. Donning ravishing robes and feathered headdresses, Eddie moved into his mother’s old farmhouse and used his oracle occupation to help fund his vision of Pasaquan.
With the proceeds he brought in from his “readings,” he began transforming the house and its grounds into one of the most remarkable folk art environments in America—a sort of mock pre-Columbian psychedelic wonderland of brightly painted totems, curved and angled walls and walkways, and wildly ornamented structures that he called “temples” and “pagodas.”
Respected southern author Tom Patterson wrote, “Pasaquan is a real homemade marvel, in the same league with the most famous architectural works by self-taught ‘outsider artists’… including Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, also in Georgia.
Eccentric, idiosyncratic, obsessive, quixotic, megalomaniacal, outrageous—St. EOM was all these things. He was one of the Great American Characters, a unique variation on the archetypal mad recluse so often portrayed in Southern literature.
But even if Flannery O’Connor and Tennessee Williams had ingested big doses of the hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms which thrive in South Georgia’s cow pastures, and collaborated on a work of post-modern Gothic fiction, they still couldn’t have invented someone like him.”
When asked why the LaGrange Art Museum was interested in folk art and St. EOM, Museum Director Briggs said, “It’s not so much that we are interested in folk art, as we are interested in collecting, presenting and expanding a collection representative of artists of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley. The Museum is committed to being a vital partner in the educational and cultural life of the community it serves and showcasing the work of a variety of artists is one way we can do that. Our permanent collection includes works by Lamar Dodd and Lamar Baker, Butch Anthony and Bessie Harvey, so it makes perfect sense that it should also expand to include St. EOM.”
“The Museum has slowly begun to expand its collection of works by such regional artists as Butch Anthony, Lamar Baker, Eddie Martin, D. X. Gordy and John Henry Toney, as well as many others both named and anonymous – both through purchase, trade and long term loan.” Said Bobby Cammon, Board President.
The purchase of a glass sculpture by Columbus-based artist Emily Williams during the LaGrange National XXVIII illustrates the Museum’s renewed focus on the region. Williams work was featured as part of regional. Williams creates detailed glass sculptures inspired by the natural world. Her glass sculptures explore complex plant and sea life forms.
Folk Art, Outsider Art and Visionary Art are all terms used to describe the work of self-taught artists who are recognized for unique talents refined to a point of mastery. Work of this kind can be difficult for people to understand or see as having value, but the lower Chattahoochee region boasts many such artists.
Self-taught artists have not pursued formal artistic training through a university or art school, studied extensively under an artist from the established art world. Most lack access to formal art training due to economic, class, racial, health or geographic restrictions.
Despite these challenges, the artists found their artistic voices and developed competent techniques that enabled them to communicate their messages. Many have been extremely prolific, producing hundreds if not thousands of pieces of art in their lifetimes. The talents of a number of these artists weren’t discovered until late in their lives, some after death.
Folk Art and self-taught art has sometimes been dismissed by the contemporary art world because it doesn’t “fit in” or follow the rules. Yet it is passionately embraced by legions of collectors and used as inspiration by artists as diverse as Max Weber and Jean Dubuffet.
For the ten-month long exhibition period here (October 28, 2016 – August 5, 2017), LAM will be the only off-site venue to exhibit the drawings, watercolors, paintings, articles of craft and regalia, decorative objects, writings, photographs, and other materials related to this Outsider Artist’s life and to Pasaquan.
Exhibition is FREE to Troup County Residents, Non-Residents we ask for a $10.00 Donation