What Were They so Mad About? New Show Opening, October 1 2014 Cafe Driade, Chapel Hill, NC



This show, What were They So Mad About? practically painted itself. One of the reasons I love painting portraits is that after I pick a photo, the personality emerges on the canvas as quickly as I squeeze out the paint. You can see the style varies in each portrait. I speak to the spirit of the person I’m painting, asking them to honor the canvas with their presence. And lo and behold they show up and use my brushes and paints to create themselves.

Each person dictates an individual palette and thickness of paint. Tyler Perry is strong, monotone and thick. Elizabeth Browning, delicate and pastel. Maya asked me to remove the polka dots from her background, which I did. Virginia is mildly amused and aloof, letting the words of her books and stories channel through her cigarette smoke. Lovely and blessed indeed are we in their presence.

I discovered late the sexual abuse of Virginia Woolf, only after reading Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I was perusing the bibliography and saw a reference to her sexual abuse by her brother. As a student of Women’s Studies, lover of Virginia Woolf, and psychiatrist, I was stunned at my ignorance. Of course I had heard diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, multiple physical ailments and bisexuality but never sexual abuse.Virginia Woolf hinted at her dissociative episodes with the following statement, “I am not one but many, not simple but complex.”



The following poem was written and is displayed on my trademark Black and White Red all Over panel.


Ode to Virginia or What was she so Mad about?

Saddened to hear
the stone
that she picked to put in her pocket
was round smooth large and white.

A round smooth large white stone
washed, worn by water after
worried weary gently cleansed
by the lapping of the river
sweeping over the surface
of the stone
that she picked and put in her pocket

Saddened to hear
know finally
and reckon with the fullness
of her madness
what led her to search for
love in both sexes
and find emptiness
search for life in a river and find death.

Words Words Words
Spoken Written Heard?
about her life     her loves
her victories       her genius

Many many words written but none said, told the story
truth of the reason she needed the
smooth large white washed worn worried
weary stone to sink deep in her pocket
and carry her out, for the sea to sweep over her surface
be gently cleansed by the river, her last lover.

Spoke often of madness, voices and headaches                                   IMG_0364
wondering for long long moments
not knowing,

What was she so Made about?

Tell us Virginia, tell us please, we’re ready to listen to you now.

Julia W. Burns, MD
honoring Michael Cunningham who taught me of Virginia Woolf’s childhood traumas

IMG_0307 IMG_0305IMG_0304 IMG_0251


As a child and adolescent psychiatrist I have heard stories of childhood trauma for years. These stories are now being processed through my art. I am grateful to you for sharing the healing and creativity of these five brilliant and celebrated artists.

Enjoy the show and visit my blog on juliaburns.org. Red panels can be commissioned for $1000. Portraits are $300. Self-portrait not for sale. Paintings can be purchased through Julia Burns at doctorjuliawb@gmail.com.

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