The same weekend that two consecutive mass shootings killed 33 people, Amherst police discovered a prominent public portrait of Emily Dickinson vandalized: someone had spray-painted a bullet hole onto her forehead, and blacked out her eyes.

Police found the vandalism Aug. 5 at 10:53 a.m. It is unclear whether the vandalism occurred in response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3 and Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, according to the Amherst police, although the Northampton artist Jeff Wrench said that “people are speculating.” No one has been charged.

The portrait of Dickinson is part of a larger mural titled “Poets of Amherst.” The work is painted on a utility box located at the corner of Amity North Pleasant and Main streets. It is accompanied by one of Dickinson’s most prominent quotes: “Pardon my sanity in a world insane.”


With the bullet hole and blacked-out eyes, Wrench said his mural is now an interesting but disturbing image.

“I can see that [the vandalizers] are going for something,” he said.

Still, Wrench was disappointed. The vandalism was the second time in the past three weeks that someone had blacked out Dickinson’s eyes, and it took him a few hours to clean it up, he said.

Wrench is in discussions with the town to see what can be done about the vandalism, he said. In the meantime, the Amherst Public Art Council has asked him to repair the mural again in the next few weeks.

“If this is going to be a battle, then it’s not a battle I can win,” Wrench said.

Martha Merrow can be reached at martha.merrow@globe.com, or on Twitter @martha_merrow