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Woman Who Attacked Painting Lived in Rosslyn

by ARLnow.com April 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm 3,830 64 Comments

The woman accused of trying to destroy a painting at the National Gallery of Art is apparently from Rosslyn.

Police say Susan Burns, 53, tried to pull a painting (NSFW) called “Two Tahitian Women” off the wall, then started punching the painting. She later allegedly told police that the painter, French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, was “evil,” that the painting was “very homosexual,” and that she was “trying to remove it.”

“I think it should be burned,” Burns said, according to a court document. She added: “I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.”

Burns is charged with second-degree theft and destruction of property. She is expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court today.

According to charging documents, Burns lives in the River Place residential complex (1111 Arlington Blvd) in Rosslyn. There’s some confusion about the geography, however, because the document erroneously places 1111 Arlington Blvd in Alexandria. Most news outlets are echoing that she’s from Alexandria, but Burns has at the very least lived in Arlington at one point. Court records from a 2006 assault charge say she lived in Arlington at the time. Furthermore, the address and apartment number listed in the charging document matches a White Pages listing for a “Susan Burns.”

  • JamesE

    She certainly looks crazy

  • Westover

    That picture is NSFW? You go to the John Ashcroft school of art and journalism? 😀

    • BiArlington

      I totally agree. What’s up with that Arlnow?

      • It’s a courtesy warning to anyone who doesn’t want to be seen looking at nude women at work. If we were trying to censor art we wouldn’t have linked to it.

        • BiArlington

          Thanks for the reply. Not in anyway accusing you of censorship, just find it funny that people would be afraid to look at what is considered a pretty famous painting, which just happens to have breasts exposed in a non-sexual way.
          Keep up the good work. I love this site.

    • NOVApologist

      I caught two newscasts yesterday. Channel 4 showed the full painting but blurred-out the breasts. Channel 9 opted to show the painting from the torso up, but strategically placed a title graphic right over the titties.

  • It’s good that she doesn’t live in the U.K. where apparently you can now see tits everywhere: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3500812/Tits-are-bouncing-back-in-British-gardens-a-survey-reveals.html

    • Page 3

    • Jezebel


  • “I am going to kill you” gets a second degree theft charge only?

  • on arlington hill

    Definitely sat next to this lady at Luna in Shirlington. She had everyone at nearby tables and the wait staff rattled with her CIA rants.

    • Tabby

      Nah, that was me.

  • ClizzleDizzle

    Ah, river place. I haven’t been there since I graduated. I always liked the giant pool. The roaches and poor people; not so much.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    “She added: “I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.””

    Hoo boy….she must have smoked a tainted batch of weed and addled her brain. I saw a picture of the painting at another web site and it didn’t impress me as being “evil” or “homosexual” at all. I hate to think what she would have done to a classic Reubens painting at the National Gallery.

    • PghBigDog

      Word on the street is that she’s accepted a position with Fox News as a consultant. She’s got all the quals, I’d say.

      • borf

        She’s replacing Glenn Beck. It will bring some sanity to Fox.

  • Lou

    She definitely looks like more of a Vermeer fan.

  • meh..

    Ummm….i’m happy to let Alexandria claim her.

  • Captain Obvious

    Methinks the lady doth protest too much. She probably felt something she didn’t want to acknowledge when looking at that picture…

  • CourthouseMom

    This poor woman is obviously mentally ill. She needs treatment, not a theft charge. Let’s have some compassion here please.

    • Westover

      She should really not have been out on the street with her past history. The cuts to the mental health system in this country is sad. We provide too much to those that can help themselves, and too little to situations like this.

      • Hattie McDaniel

        We provide too much to those that can help themselves

        The Bush tax cuts for the rich?

        • Westover

          Those without mental illness who would rather have five kids before age 22 then stay in school and get a job.

          • Westover


            Luckily welfare reform was passed in the 90’s, which helped but did not eliminate the problem. Our finite tax revenue would be better served keeping the dangerous mentally ill off the street and in treatment, than it does propagating a sense of entitlement in a certain segment of the under class in this Nation. We need to get back to that mid-90’s ideal of a hand up rather than a hand out.

          • Southeast Jerome


    • Steve

      There are lots of mentally ill people out there. In fact I would say most people are mentally ill. That still doesn’t excuse them for the actions they commit.

      • Arg

        No, but better mental health care would probably prevent people from these actions in the first place.

    • Clarendonner Party

      She doesn’t get a free pass on property damage, disturbing the peace, and death threats just because of some vague “mental illness” notion. What’s the actual diagnosis? It seems potentially severe, why wasn’t it handled prior to her getting access to extremely expensive property?

      Furthermore, why am I, a law abiding citizen, required to care about the fine and minute details of some other person’s mental disorder if the net result of that disorder is that they are a danger to others and should be contained? I am filling out my taxes right now, a full 30% or more which totals more than many people make in a year, and I have to witness this kinda crazy s–t being perpetrated by loonies?

      And when this kind of art abuse does happen, people want me to feel sympathy for this person? She clearly has enough of a mental faculty to possess some sort of annoying moral psychosis driving her actions, maybe if she pooped on the painting I would sympathize more but she attacked it like a proper spastic fundie would, and so in my book she IS a fundie, perhaps 1% crazier than the normal lot.

      Maybe we should just ship her back to Oklahoma where she will be perceived a normal, high functioning citizen. Save money on institutionalization.

      • mehoo

        It costs you MORE to NOT treat the mentally ill, dude. Now you have to pay for this lady to be in jail instead, and you’re lucky she didn’t do more damage.

        And the cost is a TINY portion of your taxes.

        • mehoo

          The cost of treating her is a tiny portion, that is.

  • Westover

    We definately need better mental heathcare in this Country. The governement does waste a lot of money on welfare programs, but this is something that is important to security in our Nation. The other day it was just a painting that was threatened, but 12 years ago it was two U.S. Capitol Police Officers that were killed defending our Temple to Democracy.

    • Tabby

      Don’t forget the Holocaust Museum guard who was murdered by that elderly man who’s a Neo-Nazi.

  • JamesE

    Have her do CIA rants at the Artisphere to draw in larger crowds.

    • Lacy Forest

      Ah, performance art.

  • Steve

    I hope they have other charges for her, because there’s no way any larceny charge will lead to a conviction. They have to show she intended to permanently deprive them of it. She wanted to damage it, which is a tort, tresspass to chattel.

  • Arl. Parent

    I wonder what she thinks of her own breasts.

  • RosRes

    This sounds like a woman suffering from psychiatric issues. She needs to be hospitalized and treated.

    • Ben

      And after the waiting period she will sign herself out and be out babbling again. Happens all the time in the mental health field.

      • Westover

        The waiting period needs to be eliminated, but then others say that would infringe on civil rights. Not sure someone that understands what their civil rights are anymore is entitled to those rights if they are a threat to the community. There needs to be a balance.

        • mehoo

          She will be released anyway, even if she’s a threat, because there just isn’t enough room in our psych facilities because our state won’t fund them. Even after the Va. Tech shooting.

          • Westover

            If given the choice, I would rather have funding going to Mental Health Treatment then to drug treatment or WIC.

          • mehoo

            Drug treatment is the same principle – you will end up paying more if you don’t treat them.

          • Westover

            Just lock them up and get better guards that keep the stuff out of prison. If 6 to 60 months of going cold turkey does not sober you up, nothing will.

          • mehoo

            Wow, you’re full of crazy today yourself.

            Not only will this approach fail miserably, it will still cost alot more than treatment. ALOT more.

          • Westover

            Minimum security prison is cheaper than inpatient treatment, and out patient treatment is a joke. Additionally, mental illness is a far more unpredicatble threat and cause of random violance than the drug trade. Druggies and dealers have yet to shoot up the Capitol, try to murder a Member of Congress, or distroy art work or a National Treasure.

          • mehoo

            No, I don’t think maximum security is cheaper than inpatient — but who said anything about inpatient? We can treat MUCH cheaper as outpatient.

  • Southeast Ben

    Perhaps she was a student at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town, Alexandria at some point. I can’t think of the NASA woman with a diaper when I hear this story. She also looks like the google ad lady in “instantcheckmate.com” located at the bottom of my http://www.arlnow.com page.

    • TXtoVA

      Laughing my a#@ off at your “instantcheckmate.com” comment — spot on! Well done.

  • SouthArlJD

    Poor thing. Auditory hallucinations, delusional thinking, paranoia – she’s crazy as a loon and not responsible. Probably an untreated schizophrenic. Hope they get her some help and restore her to some functionality. Stuff like this always looks funny unless you actually deal with people like this and their families. They’re suffering and so is she.

    • SouthArlDeeJay

      Hmmm. “Auditory hallucinations, delusional thinking, paranoia – [she’s] crazy as a loon and not responsible.” That pretty much sums up the entire county board. Maybe we should lock them up or arrest them too for our own good.

    • Dadzarg

      It is very un-Arlingtononian to disparage a whole class of birds because of the actions of this woman. I am sure the Bird Reputation Committee — aquatic bird blue ribbon working committee(it’s hidden in the PRCR Budget right above the true projections of Artisphere attendance projections) will be calling you.

      We will probably have to fund a Loon Education Series and a Love A Loon day — O’hh wait, that’s already planned for January 1st 🙂

  • Charlie Sheen

    She added: “I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.”

    I like this woman. I may use her as my opening act.

  • Fleabottomly

    Shirley MacLaine, Katie Couric, Nidal Hassan, and now Susan Burns. Arlington sure knows how to produce wacky celebrities.

  • Blur

    It figures she lives at River Dump. What a slum.

  • SoCo Resident

    What is ARLNOW’s purpose in SO highlighting the actions of the mentally ill? Their addressess, etc. I agree with all the posters who expressed concern for this poor soul, and as to those who exceedingly mocked her here – egged on by ARLNOW – God bless and pity you. I hope those who question ARLNOW’s extremely poor choice in highlighting this story to contact ARLNOW’s advertisers. ( Oh, BTW, Gauguin was a well-documented child molester who completely abandoned his own children and died of syhpilis but somehow we “celebrate” him. This is the very lowest point for ARLNOW. Journalism?

    • BiArlington

      First off, just because you are mentally ill it doesn’t give you a free pass to walk around like a lunatic (especially a homophobic lunatic?). Second, we “celebrate” Gauguin because of his amazing artistic talent, not because of his personal life (i.e. Michael Jackson). Third, an $80 million dollar piece of artwork was almost damaged and forever lost from the public eye. That makes it quite newsworthy.

    • KalashniKEV

      Haha… you’re a kook. I’ll bet SoCo would attack a piece in Artisphere and blame it on the meds… that is, if anyone ever went to Artisphere in the first place.

    • Gerbs

      Her mental illness is a matter of speculation. Her conduct is not.

      “Sane” or no, I’d hope everyone can see that attacking paintings in a museum is the sort of conduct that indicates that you don’t belong out in society.

      …and regardless, why should anyone rush cooing to the defense of a fool who’s likely contributed (and will contribute) little to nothing, even as she attempts to deprive society of works of real value?

      • Westover

        Exactly. This should lead to prison for the sane and institutionization for the insane. Either way, they should not be on the streets.

        • mehoo

          Either way, you are going to need to pay more in taxes to get that done.

  • Terry

    Figures. People that live in Rosslyn are robots. Which explains the radio in her head.

    • mehoo

      Or maybe living in Rosslyn made her crazy.

      • Rosslyner

        or maybe reading mean spirited comments on arlnow


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