YOU REMEMBER Brenda and Avon of the Bushmen? Well, they're getting married.
Percy Martin's great fable is meandering ahead with a new series of color prints that takes his heroes to the Temple of St. Mar, where they meet the priestess Nova (who is Avon's twin; you would know that if you had followed the story from the beginning), and on into the New Land on a barge filled with wedding guests.
There is a new complication: Brenda's sister Belort has fallen in love with Avon too, and wants to be a member of the wedding.
"You can always tell Belort--she has this hair going off," says Martin, and in truth you see Belort's long snaky spirals of hair in every other picture.
In one scene the couple take their Tongue Vows in the hieroglyphic language Martin has invented. The Librarian in charge of the Tongue Library came to the wedding, by the way.
In another rite of passage, Avon touches the Sacred Elephant, flying nude over the animal like a Chagall spirit. "This is a male thing. Women touch the Sacred Bird," says Martin, "at the Altar of the Deity . . ."
Wait a minute, wait a minute. What is this?
Why, it's simplicity itself. Percy Martin is a printmaker, a 40-year-old Corcoran graduate who teaches at Sidwell Friends, and for some 14 years he has been creating a legend, a mixture of African tradition and modern black America. Some of his early work goes straight back to Bushmen petroglyphs. The newer pieces, profiled heads in flat spaces, draw upon sources from Egyptian murals to Picasso abstractions, all in vibrant reds and yellows and blues. He has done at least 100 prints in the series.
About 30 of them will be shown at Gallery 10, 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW, Oct. 4 through 29.
Martin, a director of the Art Barn gallery, works out of his WD Printmaking Workshop ("the letters don't stand for anything; it's just to have a name to put on the bills") in the basement at 1831 Lamont St. NW. At least 20 printmakers use the facility, which at the moment is cluttered with rags, books, photos, mysterious signs ("Do Not Sniff Inside This Bag") and artistic chaos.
"I've always wanted to do prints," he says, "always wanted a workshop. I like to work in series. I had a fetish series before this. Did some photoetching. Woodcuts. Brenda and Avon just came to me in some Bushmen hunting pictures. Then I decided they should have their own religion, so I put in St. Mar and the Deity. And then--"
And then naturally there was the Wedding, the Rite of Handfast, a sort of bridal shower, and then Belort was attacked by the Lawkeeper, who turns out to be a very long cat, and the guests called a summit meeting to decide what to do about her . . .
Martin has exhibited from New York to South America, has been artist in residence for the National Endowment for the Arts, won a Ford grant and has shown with the Traveling Smithsonian exhibit.
"Now this--" a magnificent print of squares containing mystical figures in smoky reds and blues--"is a game board someone gave for a wedding gift. I could have done hundreds of gifts if I'd had the time and money," he mutters wistfully. But the saga is marching on, and he must hurry to keep up with it. Where will Brenda and Avon live? When will they have their first fight? Their first baby? There is so much still to be done.