WETHERSFIELD - The scarecrow, wearing a dress with the number 26 emblazoned all over it, has a river of tears streaming from its eyes, while a seemingly random assortment of items--unicorns, a football and drums, amongst others--sits in the background in front of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
This is only one of the 20 paintings that make up April’s exhibit at the Wethersfield Public Library. The artist, Elaine Osgren-Speranza, otherwise known as her scarecrow alter-ego MiscElainEOS (pronounced like the word “miscellaneous” but misspelled as a play on her name and initials) has done 71 paintings, each sprinkled with symbols that fall within a historical context.
There’s the picture of MiscElaineEOS, who, in the straw scarecrow form Osgren-Speranza constructed, is a local celebrity in her own right, standing next to legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman. There’s another of her alongside Amelia Earhart, and the list goes on. But Osgren-Speranza’s latest work, the aforementioned Newtown scene, highlights an event that is probably all too recent a memory for many that will see it. For her, it was about memorializing the 26 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims that lost their lives in December.
“I was driven to do it,” Osgren-Speranza said. “This took a lot of thought on how to do it tastefully, but tell a story.”
The story she tells is of the students and what their passions in life were, hence, the slew of items behind the scarecrow character. Twenty-six hearts, each with the initials of one of the victims, float above the image of Sandy Hook Elementary.
“I was thinking, ‘how do I put them in it?’” Osgren-Speranza said. “I thought by making the hearts and the angels, that would suffice for the 26.”
Osgren-Speranza doesn’t just recount the consequences of the tragedy that was Newtown. Embedded in the painting are her own suggestions regarding how the state can further honor the memories of those that died. On top of the school sits the capitol building in Hartford with an angel statue in front. Like the rest of her work, this is another historical allusion.
“There used to be an angel on top of our capitol,” she said. “It was there for 60 years.”
The angel sat atop the building from 1878 until 1938, the year damage sustained during a hurricane prompted its removal, to be exact. Although the original was eventually donated so that it could be melted down for war supplies in 1942, a new one version was constructed in 2005. It has been sitting in the Capitol building’s rotunda since 2010. Its significance in Osgren-Speranza’s painting?
“What a nice tribute it would be if we could raise this angel [back to the roof of the building] in honor of those 26 people that died,” she said.
Osgren-Speranza said it took her about a month to complete the painting, although her first instinct when the tragedy first occurred was to express her sorrow in the form of a painting.
“I didn’t actually start it the day it happened,” Osgren-Speranza said. “But in my mind I started it.”