A Very Odd Image

Like other artists, I collect images. For years, I have filled my notebooks and files with the ones I want to remember. Those images can be works by other artists that are just plain wonderful. Others might be mysterious, poetic or have a quality I can’t describe. Sometimes the image depicts in a surprising way a quality we all share as humans. And sometimes I collect an image, because it is odd.

The picture above fits the latter category. What is going on here? There’s a TV from around 1960 showing the test pattern that used to come on late at night when the station had shut down and the workers had gone home. But where’s the plug for the TV? The television is in the barren field of a deserted farm that looks like something out of the dust bowl. Notice the parched cracked ground and the abandoned truck. It reminds me a little of photos I’ve seen of central New Mexico after the first test of the atomic bomb. It is that forlorn, hopeless and depressing.

None of this would be so odd but for the fact that someone paired this image with Dream, the old 1944 jazz and pop standard with words and music written by Johnny Mercer. It’s one of the most beautiful and romantic songs from that era, so the juxtaposition of it with the image of dissolation and death is especially jarring. Dream was introduced by the Pied Pipers and became a hit in 1945. It’s been covered by more artists than you can count including Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Ella Fitzgerald and was even used in the trailer for the 2K Games Bioshock sequel, BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams.

So what was the artist thinking? They must have been pleased with their handiwork, because they signed and dated it. The picture is likely to remain one of those things I will never understand.

Here is Dream again, this time with “The Skylines” singing with Ray Anthony’s orchestra for the 1955 Fred Astaire–Leslie Caron musical, Daddy Long Legs. It starts at 1:30. Maybe it’s my age, but this is how I like to remember the song.

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