Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Trouble with Midnight Sun

Sort of took the day off yesterday; I even did a little bit of real-world shopping, mostly for necessities, but some Black Friday coupons were involved. Camping out in the Michigan cold? Definitely not!

I’ve been meaning to tackle the issue of Midnight Sun and other Big Lick models for a while, but I didn’t start to collect my thoughts on the subject until the latest long and complicated discussion on Blab.

I lost track of that discussion for a while, so other than bringing up a few points as to why the mold could still be viable in collectibility, I stayed out. Been dealing with a lot of family drama, and I’ve been trying to minimize my contact with it within the model horse world, too.

(Hence my slight shortness on the subject last time. Mom’s been obsessing over a neighbor’s antics to the point where I wonder why she even has cable.)

A brief history of the mold is in order: Midnight Sun really isn’t Midnight Sun: it was originally sculpted as a generic Tennessee Walker, and his identity was assigned later. There’s a possibility that Chris Hess may have partially based the original sculpt on the Grand Wood Carving sculpture of Talk of the Town, the son of Midnight Sun whose exaggerated action gave birth to the Big Lick phenomenon.

Midnight Sun molds can be competitive in collectibility. I know of at least one early 1970s Marney SR in Red Chestnut (a run of five), and the 1984 Congress SR in Flaxen Chestnut, which is a very pretty shade of chestnut, all issues of the mold aside. And Test Colors, of course.

The original Black release of the Midnight Sun does have at least two significant variations that could also be competitive.

The Chalky version is one, naturally. I don’t think I need to explain that.

The earliest (nonChalky) Midnight Sun releases have very distinctive and "clean" (no overspray) gray hooves. It’s quite different from the gray-brown hooves you see on some of the Chalkies and other early examples. It is relatively uncommon; I have one, but he’s in storage right now.

So, if I were judging collectibility, I would not rule the mold out automatically, as long as the model was properly documented/curated as such. In collectibility, we are looking at the model more as an art historical object than as a true representation of a horse. It can be both, but theoretically the anatomical and ethical issues shouldn’t necessarily play a big part in collectibility judging.

Nevertheless, the situation in the Walker world is unique and serious enough that an acknowledgement of the real world issues in the documentation would be necessary, to make it clear that it is being shown as an art historical object only.

As to whether or not I would place it would depend on what’s on the table; in most cases, I think, the mold’s probability of success is relatively low, because desirability does play a part in evaluating collectibility, and the mold has been declining in desirability for some time. This is why I think banning the mold outright is unnecessary: declining desirability will remove it from the showring with less commotion than a ban.

We cannot obliterate the Midnight Sun mold from our history. Aside from the practicality of doing so, they can - and need to - serve as reminders of what has happened before. Erasing things doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening again, and in fact might make it worse should it reappear. Because for too many people, the absence of evidence does equal evidence of absence.

This is also why I am fine with the Midnight Sun in collectibility - but only as an historical curiosity that should still be studied, not as something that needs to be promoted or perpetuated.

I can understand if some judges want to take swifter action, and take a hardline stand against the mold in all contexts and all situations. I don’t have a lot of Midnight Suns in my collection, outside of the Congress Special Run and the various Black variations, and I doubt I’d ever show any of them in collectibility anyway. I have so many more models that would be more suitable in such classes.

Midnight Sun is at the heart of the discussion that’s raged in the model horse hobby for years: should it strive for absolute realism or idealization? Depict the real horse world as accurately as possible in miniature - warts and all - or "perfect" it with the most idealized/correct representations of breeds or breed standards? (What Does Exist vs. What Should Exist)

While many hobbyists say they are striving for "absolute realism", what they’re actually going for is closer to idealization. If idealization becomes the default standard (which I tend to think it will, eventually) then I believe it is imperative that we strive to promote more humane training methods and natural gaits, and discourage those that are not.

(Note: I don’t necessarily have a problem with either judging philosophy - realism or idealism - as long as the judge or showholder makes it clear which philosophy they subscribe to ahead of time and I can adjust my showstring accordingly.)


Kristian said...

Interesting to know that the name Midnight Sun was given to the model after the sculpting and that the model was sculpted after a generic TWH.
I agree completely that the mold should not be completely wiped from model horse history. In a sense it is similar to books that were written 40 or 50 years ago that have completely different views than what we hold today. I do not think the model needs to be censored. Instead the model should be a reminder and conversation starter about what is right/not right. Plus they are plastic models......and are a part of the group of models that helped make Breyer what it is today (Is that right?)

Anonymous said...

While I don't care if people show the Breyer Midnight Sun model (models aren't sored and don't feel pain) I do think it's a terrible disservice that Breyer has done by labeling their original TWH model "Midnight Sun." Because for most of my life I thought Midnight Sun actually moved like that. It wasn't until about a year ago that I found videos of Midnight Sun on the Internet and realized he was NOT a big lick horse. So they have really done a terrible disservice to wonderful horse. Even though he was a supreme show horse, he was a horse that could actually be ridden in the real world and was not a freak show like today's big lick walkers. I don't know if this link will work, but here is a video of him I found on You-tube. What a beautiful horse. Todays big lick walkers are nothing like this beautiful horse!

Anonymous said...

Midnight Sun was the first Breyer I was ever given. I collect all of them I can find. I don't show and honestly I don't care about the real horse world. I also don't care what the model horse police think everyone should think and collect.