Albany Museum of Art Members Event: Behind the Scenes of Pasaquan

Staff Report

Friday, October 9th, 2020

On Thursday, Oct 15, 2020, Albany Museum of Art members will get an opportunity to learn more about Pasaquan, the fascinating art environment at Buena Vista founded by the late artist Eddie Owens Martin.

Michael McFalls, associate professor of art at Columbus State University and director of Pasaquan, will talk about the internationally recognized art treasure created by Martin, who is better known by his adopted name, St. EOM (pronounced “Ohm”). Behind the Scenes of Pasaquan, which begins at 5:30 pm, is free to AMA members.

It is an ideal time to learn about Pasaquan. Works by St. EOM and two of the many artists he has influenced—Eddie Dominguez, an art professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Martha Clippinger, a Columbus native now residing in North Carolina—are currently exhibiting at the Albany Museum of Art in Viberations of Pasaquan. McFalls co-curated the original Viberations of Pasaquan exhibition at the Corn Center for the Visual Arts Illges Gallery at Columbus State University

“This is a special opportunity for our members to engage with the expert on the history of Pasaquan and St. EOM,” Albany Museum of Art Executive Director Andrew J. Wulf, Ph.D., said. “Professor McFalls will share insights into the genesis of Pasaquan, its past, present, and future disposition, and efforts to preserve and share this unique arts destination with the world.”

The appearance by McFalls is a benefit for AMA members, who also can schedule private tours of the AMA galleries on Mondays.

“While we maintain the highest health safety standards for all of our guests and staff, we understand some members, especially those who are at higher risk, may be more comfortable with a visit that minimizes any chance of exposure,” Wulf said. “Mondays are administrative days, but we are happy to provide this unique opportunity to our members. Without their support, the AMA could not be the premier regional art museum that it is.” 

Because of social distancing guidelines, the maximum capacity for the event is 50 persons. To ensure seating, members asked to reserve their space by emailing AMA Education and Public Programming Director Annie Vanoteghem at annie.vanoteghem@albanymuseum.com.

Wulf noted there is still time for anyone who wants to attend Behind the Scenes of Pasaquan but who is not a member to join the AMA. 

“It’s the perfect time,” he said. “We have just started our ambitious Fall in Love with Art membership campaign. Anyone who joins during this campaign, which continues through late December, also will receive an invitation to a special new members’ party we are planning for January.” 

McFalls has unique insight into Pasaquan as director of the seven-acre art environment.

St. EOM died from a self-inflicted injury in 1986 after years of declining health. For nearly three decades following his death, the Pasaquan Preservation Society worked to preserve the art site. During 2014, the society partnered with the philanthropic organization Kohler Foundation Inc. and Columbus State University to return life to Martin’s art site.

Martin, born in 1908, had a remarkable life, hitchhiking to New York City at the age of 14.  The young Martin found adventure in the Big Apple during the Roaring Twenties, supporting himself as a hustler, prostitute, fortune-teller, gambling proprietor, and waiting tables. While he hung out with drag queens, drug dealers and colorful street people, he also engaged the rich cultural scene of New York, visiting libraries, galleries, and museums.

A high fever in 1935 changed Martin’s life. He had a vision in which he was visited by a futuristic, gender-fluid being who ordered him to change his ways and to follow the path of a new religion to be called Pasaquoyanism. Martin agreed, becoming the only known Pasaquoyan and changing his name to St. EOM. 

St. EOM continued in New York for a couple of decades, developing his spiritual belief system and crafting a Pasaquoyan aesthetic that lavishly fuses pre-Columbian and Native American motifs with 1930s New York fashion design. 

In 1956, Martin had another vision of Pasaquoyans, who ordered him to return to the family farm in Buena Vista, Ga., where his mother had recently died. Back in Georgia, he worked as a fortune-teller and card reader to fund his final, most significant work—the creation of Pasaquan. Martin devoted the last 30 years of his life to creating the seven-acre art environment.

“Viberations,” one of the many words Martin coined, is a reference to the feelings evoked while viewing art. Martin felt that viewing art sparked internal vibrations, tremors or quivering sensations, that became forever associated with the visual stimulation of the artwork.

A third of a century after his death, St. EOM is having his most meaningful impact in the art world with exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Paris, France. Artists from across the world have traveled to the small community of Buena Vista to visit Pasaquan. Many, like Rodriguez and Clippinger, have left Pasaquan inspired and influenced by St. EOM’s vision. The inspiration of Pasaquan is fueling creative energy and encouraging emerging voices to feel the “viberations” and to bring forward new knowledge and awareness of St. EOM’s significant contribution to American art.

The Viberations of Pasaquan exhibition continues in the AMA West Gallery through Oct 24, 2020. The museum is open 10 am-5 pm Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, and 10 am-7 pm on Thursdays. Admission is free. 

CURRENT AMA EXHIBITIONS 

n  JUAN LOGAN: creating & collecting is in the Haley Gallery July 9-Oct 24, 2020.

n  Works by Brian Willmont is in the East Gallery July 9-Oct 24, 2020.

n  Viberations from Pasaquan is in the West Gallery July 9-Oct 24, 2020.