April 13th, 2004

Sherri Tracinski

was trained as an architect at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She has written some articles on architecture for publications associated with the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). I've never met her, but I found some of her writing quite helpful. I cited a couple of her articles when I wrote my art paper for the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. She had nicely formulated some points I was trying to articulate. She was particularly clear on the point that the functional aspects of a building were part of its means of communicating a view of what kind of being man is.

I had been struggling with an image of a building as being a kind of reverse image, or rather a clay mold image of a man, before the bronze has been poured into the clay mold. A clay mold of your face tells us all about your face, because it fits so precisely AROUND your face.

The image came out of science fiction stories, where we find an ancient alien civilization where the buildings remain, but all the aliens are gone, and the aliens have left no images of themselves. Well, from the empty buildings themselves, we would still learn a lot about the aliens. Because the buildings are built to suit them.

I THINK but am NOT sure that this idea is somewhere implicit in The Fountainhead. But I would have to re-read it. I may do that soon, anyway.

Anyway, Mrs. Tracinski wrote two articles I thought were brilliant, and I cited them both.

Louis Torres, co-author of What Art Is, was not impressed, I guess, with my references. In his response to my article, he seemed to concede that I had made a lot of citations, which I had, but he made a point of the fact that half of my citations were to Objectivist sources. Then he made a point of saying that Sherri Tracinski, who I had taken as an "authority," was associated with the orthodox ARI brand of Objectivism.

I took these to be negative points, in his mind if not in mine.

I should say, that though I was glad to cite Tracinski, and grateful for her insight, I was not citing her as an "authority." We were talking abstract aesthetics, and "authority" is an odd concept to bring up in this context. The authorities in philosophical aesthetics are reason and reality. I cited her because she said something new, clearly and distinctly, that I thought was true.

The fact that she is associated with ARI in no way weakens her argument. I don't associate much with people from ARI, but they do some good work.