Mors Eloquentiae-Political Debate, 2019

Steel, Fiberglass, Resin

Dimensions: 81” x 8’ x 4’

Image courtesy of the artist

Duane Paxson

Comer, Georgia

In 1986 during an interview on Crossfire, Frank Zappa defended the right of musicians to publish pornographic lyrics, reiterating the phrase “it’s only words.” Zappa maintained thereby that words have neither meaning nor influence, be it positive or negative. He further stated that politicians should no longer be subtle but rather blunt, even coarse in their discourse. He finally predicted that America was headed toward Fascism: Zappa “zapped” it. Fast forward to the presidential campaign of 2016, in which “trash” talk became the norm, and many began to fear the nation’s slip from democratic ideals.

Even though Zappa was giving a spirited defense of the first amendment protecting free speech, his negation of the power of words, runs counter to cultural traditions and even scientific beliefs. Cultures both Eastern and Western hold their literary legacies in great esteem. And psychologists underscore how important supportive language is to all. My three sculptures from the Mors Eloquentiae series dramatize today’s alarming disinterest in the reality of words and in the power of their intelligent and skillful use: the art of rhetoric.

Crafted of intricately welded steel, the works bear a dual significance. They are both megaphones, as though blaring empty words, and at the same time baby bottles, dispensing propaganda like liquids to be “sucked up” by innocent and unsuspecting citizens. The installation decries the current debasement of language in contemporary culture, but particularly in the political arena. I therefore title my work Mors Eloquentiae, Latin for the death of eloquence.