DOCUMENT: Bizarre, Crime

Crazed D.C. Art Critic Strikes Museum Again

Gauguin attacker arrested for new Matisse assault

AUGUST 12--Four months after she was arrested for trying to tear an $80 million Paul Gauguin painting off the wall of the National Gallery of Art, a Virginia woman returned to the museum last week and attacked a Henry Matisse oil, slamming it against the wall three times and damaging the 1919 work’s antique original frame, The Smoking Gun has learned.

According to police, Susan Burns, 53, last Friday afternoon entered the National Gallery and walked over to “The Plumed Hat,” a Matisse oil painting “valued at 2.5 million dollars.” She then “grabbed both sides of the frame holding said painting,” which measures 18 ¾" x 15".

In full view of a museum surveillance camera, Burns then “slammed the painting against the wall three times, damaging the antique original frame of the painting,” according to an arrest affidavit sworn by police Lieutenant Dexter Moten. “No damage to the painting itself was immediately apparent,” Moten reported.

Court records do not disclose why Burns attacked the Matisse, which is seen above. She was charged with contempt, unlawful entry, destroying property, and attempted theft.

The contempt count stems from a prior D.C. Superior Court order barring her from entering the National Gallery after she was arrested for an April 2 assault on the Gauguin painting “Two Tahitian Women.”

Burns sought to tear the painting off a gallery wall (and also punched the work) because she believed the French artist was “evil” and that his artwork “has nudity and is bad for the children,” according to a misdemeanor criminal complaint. She also told investigators that the 1899 painting--which features two topless women--was “very homosexual. I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned.”

An acrylic shield protected the Gauguin painting from being damaged during the attack by Burns, who is pictured in the mug shot at left, which was taken after a 2006 assault arrest.

The criminal complaint also revealed Burns’s clearly unstable mental state. She claimed, “I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.”

Burns, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, this week underwent a mental observation hearing that resulted in a judge declaring her incompetent to stand trial for the Matisse assault. A court docket indicates that Burns was to be “transferred immediately” from a D.C. jail to “St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and to be monitored closely.” (4 pages)