On his 5th birthday, Marc Straus was given a bicycle by his father. Marc suggested to him that he would prefer a job in his textile shop instead. From that day on, until he completed medical school, Marc went to work every Sunday, first folding sheets in the basement on Grand and Eldridge. His father, an orphaned immigrant, came to this country at 15. By age 28, he owned the LES building that housed his textile shop, and soon several others.
By the age of 16 and already smitten with his classmate Livia, Marc made his first acquisition. Marc’s father knew the painter Milton Resnick, who was always broke and happened to be losing his studio. He offered him an old synagogue he owned in exchange for four of his paintings. He sent Marc to pick them out. ”I went through an enormous stack of paintings in a small, dimly lit room. When I picked one out Resnick said, ‘You can’t have that one!’ I said, ‘No deal then,’ and I ended up leaving with the best ones.” Four years later Marc married Livia, and with their combined love of art and respect for each other’s guileless, albeit steadfast intuition, America’s greatest collecting couple was born.
CHRISTINA LESSA: When did you meet?
MARC STRAUS: She was fourteen. First day of ninth grade.
LIVIA STRAUS: I was thirteen.
MARC STRAUS: I was a new kid in the school, a small private school. I saw her on the other side of the room by the window and took a seat next to her.
LIVIA STRAUS: We didn’t go out. We were just friends and then started dating the senior year of high school.
CHRISTINA LESSA: What turned the tide?
LIVIA STRAUS: A dare.
MARC STRAUS: Her dare. She had to get these famous rabbis out of the picture. They were all circling her, all these famous scholars.
LIVIA STRAUS: We were sitting down with two friends and I was a huge Edgar Allen Poe fan and The Fall of the House of Usher was supposed to be playing in town. I said, ‘I dare you to go with me.’
MARC STRAUS: And I just looked at her like, ‘What is she telling me, what does this mean?’ I said, ‘So you want to go?’ So I guess she opened the door.
CHRISTINA LESSA: And then what happened?
LIVIA STRAUS: Somebody had made a mistake and it wasn’t playing so we went to see Hiroshima Mon Amour, a nice, uplifting film! [laughs]
CHRISTINA LESSA: You started dating at sixteen, at twenty you got married and you started medical school that week.
MARC STRAUS: And she was teaching first grade in Brownsville and at night taking her Masters degree.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Were you collecting art at that point?
MARC STRAUS: I was buying stuff. See those 18th century Toby mugs? [gestures to a shelved collection of a few dozen mugs] I bought those when I was 18. I was a very serious collector and I was trying to buy art in my teens. I didn’t put the time into it, but I wanted to collect art. Coming around that corner and learning it took several years.
When I started collecting Toby Mugs, I went to the most important auction of these ever, in Pennsylvania, where they had some 3,000. My in was when I found an 83 year old man who was an expert and I went over to him as a college student and said, ‘Can you help tell me? Which are good and what they are they worth?’ I was signaling him when I liked one and he said, ‘No, not that one, take that one…’ and then later tells me that’s the last one of its kind left. It became important to me that a work of art might be unique as with a new Ellsworth Kelly, where no doubt I have the only one of its kind. It’s going to be loaned to MoMA next year.
LIVIA STRAUS: But we had started off like a lot of other people. We used to go to the Washington Square Art Show.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Livia, were you interested in collecting at that time as well?
LIVIA STRAUS: I was happy looking at the art. I didn’t have to collect it as Marc did. I didn’t have to necessarily buy it. I collected other stuff. Tchotchkies, pictures, objects, old vases, jewelry.
MARC STRAUS: I was very focused. I had a really good baseball collection as a little kid. I was collecting at age 4.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Four? How..?
MARC STRAUS: I was a very unusual and independent kid. By 2 I was riding my little trike all over the place without supervision and by four I was collecting cards. By five I was really good. I had gotten a real bicycle and I was going to high school yards, reaching out a couple of miles in several directions to find the bigger kids with better cards. By the time I was five, I knew every statistic, every week, of all the players. I was going to libraries and sucking up as much information as possible. Back then, collecting cards was very popular, a nickel a pack, I would never have asked for money to buy them so I had to win them. There were two games that you could play to win at flipping cards. One- I practiced so much I could never lose. I could win almost at will. I went to the schoolyards and traded for cards that kids really wanted, then went to the older kids. By eight, I had about 2,000 cards that I was cataloguing and then I quit. I was done. It’s interesting because it’s really no different with art collectors today. When I was a kid, Mickey Mantle was popular and the Yankees, and every kid wanted the same thing if they were from a certain place. I understood that collecting was regional. At age five I realized that if you were from Boston you wanted a Ted Williams. I wanted the best, no matter where they were from. Even though Ted Williams was probably the greatest hitter of all time, a NY kid didn’t want it so it was easy for me to get one here. My interest was in the best in the world, it still is. People don’t understand how parochial their access has been; art fairs have changed that somewhat. We collected work from other countries early on, always the best works.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Livia, how did you get involved in collecting artworks with Marc?
LIVIA STRAUS: I still remember the first time we bought a piece, a Saul Raskin, I was nervous as heck. It was a substantial investment of our funds. I came from a very moderate-income family. My dad had died when I turned thirteen. That was actually the year I met Marc. My father used to like buying things, small things: he would go to Sotheby’s and buy a broken box. He became friendly with the auctioneer and he would put these lamps together of broken pieces. My mother believed you put money in the bank and earned interest and that’s how you had a secure life. Marc was always more about living on the edge. When we bought our first artwork it was over a year’s salary.
MARC STRAUS: Just after I finished medical school, our third purchase was a 1970 Ellsworth Kelly painting, which was twice my internship salary. It took me three years to pay it off.
LIVIA STRAUS: It was frightening for me. As was buying our first house, but we loved the work. I thought, if this is what he wants to do, I’ll do it. The first contemporary piece we bought was The Kenneth Noland chevron that’s hanging on the wall, the first piece of contemporary art, a four color canvas. We both loved it and we were living in St. Louis and Marc had taken a walk one day with our son and came back and said he had gone into a gallery and he said, ‘I saw this stuff, I don’t really understand it, do you want to go back and look?’ We went back and looked and I loved it. It was very colorful. It was all these cardboard boxes opened up on a canvas made of a peeled off acrylic. We sat down and talked to the gallery owner at the time, Joe Hellman, and said, ‘How do you learn this stuff?’ Marc had to learn it. He said, ‘Just go to museums, read magazines and learn about the work.’ That’s when we started collecting contemporary art, before then, we were not fully focused.
MARC STRAUS: 1964 we made our first art purchase just as we got married. It’s there in the den. It was something we did together. We really had no money.
When I was a teenager, my dad bought this book that he used at a religious holiday. It was illustrated by an artist who came out of the ghetto in Russia, Saul Raskin. He was a contemporary of Chagall, but Chagall became famous and Raskin didn’t. My dad was very proud of this book that cost $35. He was sitting there with this beautiful book, and I asked him why he liked it. He said, ‘These pictures are beautiful. They really give you a sense of that culture.’ My dad came from Eastern Europe. I said, ‘Raskin is alive, why not get the original?’ My dad was looking at me like I’d lost it. I asked which was his favorite page and I said, ‘Let’s see if we can get it.’ So the year we got married we found Saul Raskin on the Lower East Side a half a block away from my gallery, in a one room cold water flat, eighty nine years old and poor. We went in there and most of the stuff was gone. He had a few things left and we bought four works. Partly to do it, partly to give him money, and mainly, to give my dad one.
LIVIA STRAUS: But it was also part of our heritage. Marc will show you the piece. It was all scenes from villages in Eastern Europe. One of the larger pieces we got is called The Dance of the Dybbuk. It’s this whole concept of this beautiful young bride becoming possessed by someone she had been in love with but it wasn’t her betrothed because it wasn’t put together by the matchmaker.
MARC STRAUS: That would have happened to you if you didn’t marry me.
LIVIA STRAUS: It was a very potent piece for us. That piece has always been on our walls. It’s always been part of our lives.
MARC STRAUS: The very first thing we bought started us on a journey and most of the collecting has been just that, a journey.
LIVIA STRAUS: At this point it would be difficult to picture living without art. Each of the pieces has something that we weren’t as cognizant of when we started collecting. There was this spiritual element to all the art that we collected. Marc has always identified himself as this kind of scientist and me as the spiritualist. We really came to it intellectually somewhat, by looking at the whole branch of the artist’s work but also reacting to the work at a very emotional level. I think that’s why we never want to take some of them down. The Kiefer has always been on our wall since we bought it. The Noland has an emotional attachment for us. It was the way we started in contemporary art. No matter which way our lives have gone.
CHRISTINA LESSA: What do you feel is the defining element that has brought the two of you together in your search for work?
LIVIA STRAUS: Marc was always a scientist and a researcher and very clear. He was also always a poet. He used to write me love poems in high school and short stories. Both of us have gone on a lot of different tangents in our careers. I started off in elementary school and was teaching medical ethics for a while. We overlapped for many years and then I ended up really vested in theology. I was studying more world religions, being involved in Catholicism especially the mystical tradition, not so much in Islam. That’s something maybe to do in the future. It’s taken us on a very specific path even in terms of what we look at. The blue Daniel Buren, how do you take something that’s just a solid color and relate to that spiritually? That’s in some ways how we started from this minimalism and color field work. How do you take a solid color and give it that type of impact? Seeing the shadows project on the wall. For us, it’s really beautiful and the fact that it can fill an entire space. We started looking at Rothko and Donald Judd. Those were really the birthplaces of how we started looking at contemporary art.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Please explain what you mean when you say you relate that to your theological studies. I’m curious to understand.
LIVIA STRAUS: For me, almost all of the abstractionists came right out of Jewish tradition. You couldn’t for a long time in Jewish history present something as an actual physical presence. You couldn’t identify the space. Same as Islam. You go into a synagogue, especially if it’s an old one, and it’s covered with the words of the prayer. But it’s not illustration, not since the 1st or 2nd century. Before that it was illustration. This kind of abstraction that evolved during that period of Rothko and Newman for me very much related to Jewish tradition. A Jew could have something like the stations of the cross with the emotions just presented in color. When Newman made the stations of the cross an exultation occurs just with the zip of white going through different shades of white. [The Jewish tradition has] moved away and then come back consistently to this abstract base. Even the pieces that seem to be more realistic or more physical have a very abstractionist quality to them. It’s not something you can identify. We’ve never really been very interested in super realistic work.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Do you still apply these different concepts of various worlds and theology to the work that you’ve collected more recently?
MARC STRAUS: I don’t think that it’s conscious. We go in and see something and she has an emotional response to it. It’s often very clear but we never consciously think it’s a priority that we’ll be interested in something or we want to collect because we’ll be interested in it. It’s always a journey. We don’t know what we’re going to collect—it has to be this new thing that enlightens us.
LIVIA STRAUS: There’s a painting in here by an Islamic artist, Ali Banisadr. It looks like there’s figuration in it, but there really isn’t any. It’s all colors. I don’t know what attracted me to it but I kept on going back and looking at it again. It’s so different than anything else we have but it has that abstract quality so it lets you read into whatever you’re looking at. The best of the realistic pieces are still opening the door. With an El Greco or Goya painting there’s a quality of realism but always there is an indefinable quality, not quite real, not what you think you’re looking at.
MARC STRAUS: I guess in the end, retrospectively, we look at what we did and how even something with figuration, which we didn’t collect for over 20-25 years, at its best, as with Giacometti, has emotional power.
CHRISTINA LESSA: How would you translate those concepts to artists you’ve collected like Damien Hirst?
MARC STRAUS: If we start thinking about what we would or wouldn’t buy then the process would be stifled. But I would have said if you had asked me, we would never buy such as this painting by Hirst. It’s almost a pejorative word that I can’t help using here; it’s almost too decorative for our tastes. And yet that particular piece has this gorgeous religious quality. Damien Hirst has done a lot of butterfly pieces often with many butterflies on a canvas. This is a pure oval completely filled with gorgeous butterflies and it’s in this mirror image stained glass pattern. Livia had an idea for a museum show and I kept thinking that we needed to anchor it with a title. Her concept had to do with the impact of religiosity and art. I called it Reverence which created this focus. What she was looking at is how artists achieve a sense of transcendence in their art without iconography. Do you need a figure up on a cross for it to have this religious feeling and transcendent quality? Her whole interest in Newman to Rothko was related to how they’d achieved such transcendent quality with almost nothing. We woke up realizing that was the attraction to the Damien Hirst. It went in the museum show in a cathedral like room. People walked in who didn’t know what it was and they were coming from a distance. At first they thought it was a church window. Glorious glistening butterflies in this oval quality and just the perfect choice for the surface. It entered our lives, I’m sure, because of those qualities.
CHRISTINA LESSA: There’s a huge crossover with spirituality here.
MARC STRAUS: Livia would probably tell you more clearly than me that I started off reading and reading and gobbling up art journals, the same way I do medical journals. Siphoning off the stuff that counted. Most art writing isn’t very valuable. I was getting it pretty quickly but more importantly, I was committed and looking. I understood very early on that the only way to get good at this was commit and buy it and live with it and learn and commit again. The journey can’t only be intellectual, you have to commit. I did a lot more of that than Livia. I did most of the footwork. Now if likely that she’s doing many more studio visits than me. She’s wearing a very different hat; more artists know her than most anybody. She’s
in her element now because she’s this pied piper. Young artists feel her commitment and passion and support in a way that I couldn’t.. She has a way of encouraging artists. She is a great teacher. When we started I had had a very studied approach and I just assumed that I’m a really good diagnostician and I can figure this out. Livia is very much a spiritual theologian. I would go out into the art world and go all through Soho and I’d reserve one piece at one gallery and on Saturday I would go with her and wouldn’t tell her anything and she’d pick out the same piece. This happened always. Once we were looking at a Frank Stella in 1982. He did about 80 pieces, I looked at all 80 I picked out my first choice and my second choice and Livia came in and out of 80, her number one and number two were identical. The odds of that by chance are 1 out of less than 6000. I never stopped to figure it out.
CHRISTINA LESSA: How could you rationalize the fact that after all of your studies, and research that an otherworldly element was at play?
MARC STRAUS: Only after I was writing poetry seriously did I understand that any of this for me wasn’t very studied or scientific. I just didn’t realize that other side that was coming in the door – intuition and perhaps mysticism. For Livia, I’d always understood where it was coming from and I always believed that she was the perfect foil for me as a collecting team because she’s impervious to what anybody thinks about the piece of art. You can’t color her opinion. She doesn’t know and she could care less who already bought the work. It just has no value in what she thinks about it. I always knew this about her. I’m sucking up information and I suck up everything and I try very hard not to allow that information to come in, but with Livia it just doesn’t even get in the door. She’s this absolutely independent person who has this very spiritual approach.
CHRISTINA LESSA: In 2004, you opened the nonprofit HVCCA in the Hudson Valley, which Livia largely runs. How did you make the decision to develop the museum?
MARC STRAUS: We had loaned our collection for this almost three-year tour from 1998-2000. It was a very important tour of our collection. The museum director who put it together was pretty brilliant. He was the director of the Harn Museum in ’97. He was after us for a year or two, he wanted to start this big tour but Livia didn’t want to do it. She, more than me, was opposed to our collection showing anywhere. I decided to go see his museum. I went in there and he took me around and I said, ‘You made a decision to install that painting just there and not a little to the right.’ He said, ‘You noticed, tell me about that.’ I knew he was meticulous. I asked what he wanted from my collection and he said, ‘I don’t want your ’62 Lichtenstein or Warhol.’ He was more interested in what we bought at the beginning of artist careers. Anybody who didn’t just want the icons had my attention.
The opening changed our lives somewhat. We gave lectures; in every city we had sessions with students. We met with the MFA programs. That led to Livia and the museum, that journey.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Any specific memories from that time?
MARC STRAUS: At our first stop at the Harn Museum, there’s a huge audience and we gave a talk. Somebody in the audience says, ‘Was there anything you could have had and are sorry you didn’t get?’ I said, ‘No, never happened.’
LIVIA STRAUS: I said, ‘Yes, it happened.’
MARC STRAUS: Then this thing started in front of everybody where she said we were offered two really wonderful Rothko’s and Marc turned it down. I just said, ‘They weren’t the best,’ and she said, ‘They were pretty great.’ I said, ‘I will tell you which I think are the six best pieces he ever did and in what year and what they look like.’ We started our abstract interest with Rothko. It was an important start for me. We come back home the next week somebody calls me to offer to buy one of our paintings. We hadn’t sold anything for 23 years and then almost never after that. I get this call and somebody offers me a lot of money for something we bought. This was a painting we had that was very important to us. It had become quite valuable. This guy offers us way more than I make a year as a physician.
LIVIA STRAUS: and I said, ‘Not a chance.’ Then Marc said to me, ‘Is there any price you would sell it for?’ I said, ‘If they would double it.’
MARC STRAUS: He called me back and I said, ‘Livia would have no interest unless you double the price.’ The next day he called me back and said okay, he had the money. Then Livia said, ‘Are we selling it?’ I called the guy back and let it sink in. I said we’ll sell it on one condition, there’s six Rothko’s that are the best he ever did. You find one and exchange and we have a deal. He got it.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Were you happy to get such a great price or was it still difficult to part with?
MARC STRAUS: The Jasper Johns I like best, the first 1955 White Flag painting, came up at auction for what I thought was a very cheap price when the market was down. It was way beyond my means at the time, but it’s worth twenty times more than that now. I went to a friend of mine to say, ‘Can you raise the money to get this thing?’ He didn’t want to do it. But we weren’t collecting that way. The Rothko came into our lives as an accident and to realize it we had to part with something we loved.
CHRISTINA LESSA: How did you pick the location of the museum?
MARC STRAUS: I was out looking for a storage bunker. I wanted my own building. I didn’t want to be paying rent. I wanted to design the space and the only way to do that was to get nothing but the equivalent of a bunker. Livia said, ‘I know an old post office for sale in Ossining and I like the town and Sing Sing prison is there. I think if we set aside a little space in a needy community we could set up some shows. I’d like to merge the two.’ We almost bought this old post office and the deal fell through. Then I dug in and started looking for buildings and we knew we found it when we found this larger building in a poor community in Peekskill. It was a beautiful Hudson River town sucked under by economic change. If we were going to buy this building we had to sell something and the only way we could guarantee we could pay for this building was to part with something that we could guarantee the price. What we parted with wasn’t the Rothko but it was the next best thing. We parted with a Bourgeois Spider. It was incredibly difficult. The guarantee paid for the building. It’s worth 5-6 times more now but I said to Livia, ‘Do you want to do this public museum or not?’ She’s a genius at it. She has personally helped in the most important way not only to transform this community, her courage and her voice, she’s also helped show over one hundred artists for the first time in the US, that then got galleries. There’s not six institutions in New York City that can say that.
CHRISTINA LESSA: How do you choose the art?
MARC STRAUS: She’s at studio after studio. And it’s not about the work winding up in our collection. She’s doing the thing that’s more original for her. She goes to studios and creates such a support system for artists. I go into studios, and I’m methodical. I’m not there to talk much. I’m not there to tell them what’s good or bad. Now once in a while she’ll say to me, ‘This artist’s work you have to see.’ I say, ‘Is it because the artist is really nice or the work is great?’ I tried very hard not to let personal feelings get into what I think about the art. I have to balance wanting to support them and how good the art is. Now I can tell by what she says even if she doesn’t know it. If I figure out she knows the work is great then I do the studio visit.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Are most of your studio visits in America or abroad?
LIVIA STRAUS: We’ve done thousands of studio visits. A couple of years ago we did about 350 studio visits in Eastern Europe and the year before that we were in Holland. On average, we think that one artist out of several hundred has a fresh, original, important voice.
MARC STRAUS: She’s doing zillions now here [in America]. She decided to start an art festival in the city of Peekskill. We know New Orleans has gotten a lot of traction, they’ve done three. It’s a bigger city. Little Peekskill by itself is only 25,000 people. She’s doing The Peekskill Project a fifth time. She’s shown about 100 artists each time. Until the one she’s about to do in September, they all exhibited in the town. The first one was a little difficult
for the town, not anymore. Now they mourned not having it last year. The mayor keeps meeting with Livia to offer their help. This is the first time she wants to take a larger risk. She has fifteen curators helping her. It’s going to be throughout the town and now it’s also going to be in the museum. Until now we’ve only reserved the museum for things we think are real quality. So she set the bar higher for this show. She intends to look at artists whose studios are all from Brooklyn up to the top of New York State. I can’t tell you how many studio visits she’s done. She must have done thirty last week. I’m not involved in curating the show.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Is it primarily emerging artists?
MARC STRAUS: Yes, but maybe not all. She’s always been intent on supporting artists who need support. The Circa 1986 show up now includes big time artists who emerged from ’81 to ’91. All the work was hard to get access to. Today sixty plus percent of the artists in the show currently have no market and others are really famous, like Koons. It’s a very sobering show. For whatever the various reasons are, much of it has no market value now. Over 90 percent of people buy art with their ears. “This is so hot I have to have one.” They are just chasing the names. Even the lesser pieces by the same names. Livia and I are very careful not to get caught up in any of that. You have to not pay attention to what the buzz is. She never would. It wouldn’t even be possible for her, but you have to direct yourself to what the work is.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Emerging artists and the cultivation of their paths seems to be your forte. How do you determine when someone doesn’t have an established body of work what the longevity could be? Are you going simply by gut? It must also have something to do with the artist, their personality.
MARC STRAUS: We’ve bought work where we didn’t know the artist, so not always. I remember we were kids and maybe the fourth or fifth painting we bought was by an artist who was my age. This young guy, a famous gallery was showing him, Andre Emmerich, and he had white, pasty, pastel paintings – a fast painter. I had to see all of them and I knew every white painting that he ever did. I got the one I wanted and I had no money, but I knew how to do it. Then the artist gets picked for the Whitney Biennial and he was hot. I see him a couple of months later at a party. I tell him about the painting we love and he didn’t remember it. I said to Livia that his career’s going to end. I can recall my poem twenty years later if you mention the title. I thought, ‘This guy is finished,’ and indeed he didn’t make it.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Now your new Gallery is open as well. I love the nostalgia behind its location across the street from your Father’s old textile store.
MARC STRAUS: Yes, I considered opening a space in Chelsea a few years ago. Everyone said,”You’re Marc Straus, you have to be in Chelsea.” I thought, what am I going to do there? Have the 10th biggest box in Chelsea? Who cares?
CHRISTINA LESSA: I just attended your opening of Antonio Santin’s paintings…such incredible work. The rigor behind his process is very clear to the viewer.
MARC STRAUS: When we go into a studio now, we need to see that the artist has clicked in. Antonio, who is a Spanish painter living in Berlin, is a great example of this. I did several studio visits in New York and Berlin before I agreed to represent him. The new work is really convincing, hard work. You don’t get here without several years of painting and really hard work. I wanted to see everything he’d painted before. I wanted him to pull out every painting. Some artists really don’t want to do it. I’m not going to buy the work unless I know its history. I’m never going to represent someone unless I know all of it. He pulled out the work and I could see the linkages over six years of painting. I wouldn’t have bought his work three or six years ago but when I saw the great progress and effort and independence I had the trust that he takes necessary risks.
I have to see what they do. For four years, I’ve run an artists’ club. I did it in New York for a couple of years and then in Peekskill. Every month a group of emerging artists meet with me. John Newsom was in it, but he was a bit senior to be in the group. It’s like a workshop. Every month two artists bring a new work and they aren’t allowed to talk. We know nothing and they can’t answer questions and then we go at it for an hour. All the artists are growing and say it’s the best critique they’ve had. I start by looking at the canvas they use. Does the canvas make
sense for the painting and what about the stretching? I’ll get them very focused on the process. I don’t want to hear stuff in the first thirty minutes like, ‘This is really good,’ that means nothing, you have to get there carefully. A lot of artists went to great schools and have no one to talk to and have no idea how to insinuate themselves into the system and how to get looked at. Livia’s created this forum in Peekskill and all my years running a medical journal club kick in. The years of looking at art and deciphering… I know exactly how they got to where they are. There’s nothing that takes the place of experience.
CHRISTINA LESSA: Absolutely. Experience, for better or for worse applies to a higher understanding of everything in life.
MARC STRAUS: I just thought when I was 25 running a research lab at the National Cancer Institute that authority was important, but I learned that applying your own knowledge and instinct are more important. I read about one thousand scientific articles in the first two months. It became very important to be able to read it to understand what it is really telling me. What can I extract from it? What are the essential pieces that were there. I’ll never forget that I was a young first year resident, I was reading an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on hypertension, which isn’t my field. It was this landmark article on the biggest study that had to do with understanding the different types of hypertension and I’m reading it and I think, ‘Oh my god this article doesn’t say what they think they say. They’ve misinterpreted their own data.’ So I take it to a statistician and I say, ‘I want you to rerun every dot on the graph. It’s going to come out different.’ And it did, it came out completely different. I had a different understanding of the conclusion that they should have come to. So I sent it as a publication to JAMA and this was this huge European study that had been funded for years so the editors sent it to the people who did it because obviously I was right, and finally, when they didn’t have a rebuttal, they published my paper. I thought, ‘It’s about how you look at what you look at. You have to know what you know.’ It’s the same with collecting.
LIVIA STRAUS: You have to go with your instinct. Your heart will lead you.
MARC STRAUS: and knowledge…
A whiff of coriander, a hint
of lilac? What did I know
at seventeen, so James Dean-
like, black Ban-lon shirt sleeve
tightly rolled up. And she –
leaning in towards me, maroon
and gold cheerleader sweater, Y.F.H.S.
’61 embossed in front. Who took
this slightly out-of-focus photo? Diane
Arbus? Yousuf Karsh? There is
genius here – blue hyperbolic sky
incised over brick and tar roofs, late afternoon light
reflected off my bright red hair,
a rusty iron fence, her emerald eyes
like ocean pools. It’s
the timelessness: love glimmering
against the tenements, love a slow
synchronous Fox-trot, breezy
and resilient. It will endure.
Isn’t it so? Isn’t