Peter Miller (1967)

Visual Artist,Kamakura, Japan

After graduating from Columbia College (studying with Daniel Bell there) in 1967, I entered the Berkeley Sociology Department under a Ford Foundation Fellowship. At Berkeley, I found a sort of continuity with Nathan Glazer, another member of the 'New York school' whose style of discourse and research was well-presented in the documentary film 'Arguing the World'. These public-policy intellectuals sought to cast societal decisions in a non-ideological framework, as the title of one of Bell's books 'The End of Ideology', indicated. Their approach was ideologically engaged -- but not warped -- and informed by scholarship and science -- but not to the exclusion of common sense and empirical observation. They never let ideological or academic positions get in the way of lived experience. And for that style of learning I am profoundly grateful.

Erving Goffman's classic, 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life', made major contributions to our understanding of 'the things we take for granted' --the normal, everyday activities and modes of relating to one another that sustain our identities and group-memberships. As I listened to him 'think out loud' during his lectures, I was amazed at his ability to make new sense of the contingent reality we are all immersed in, as if he were a four- dimensional creature observing the three-dimensional world. He made it all crystal-clear, by questioning the obvious and, like an anthropologist among primitives, bringing out the underlying logic and structure of the goings-on. Each lecture was an extraordinary performance.

I also found a congenial atmosphere at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, where Philip Selznick and Sheldon Messinger assembled a fine inter-disciplinary group of scholars from law, political science, sociology, criminal justice, and other fields.

Berkeley during the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was there was a lively place. I joined a Food Conspiracy, which was a buyers' cooperative disguised as a plot to overthrow the State; participated in the takeover of People's Park; as a teaching assistant held classes off campus when the tear gas on campus was too thick; lived across the street from Patty Hearst; hung out at Moe's Books on Telegraph Avenue and made 'Moe-money' (store scrip) my currency of choice; listened to string quartets and piano recitals at 1532 Arch, a North Berkeley classical music venue; and to KPFA, the classical-music and earnest-commentary Pacifica Foundation radio station; and to KSAN, which gave a thoroughly iconoclastic version of the news; bicycled in the Berkeley hills, one of my favorites being San Pablo Road to an abandoned Nike site (missile base, not tennis shoes), where one could watch the fog rolling in across San Francisco Bay; dined at Pot Luck, the restaurant of wine connoisseur and Spanish Civil War veteran Hank Rubin, which was the origin of a restaurant genealogy leading to the present-day Chez Panisse. Berkeley also provided access to the incredibly rich scenic resources of the Bay Area and beyond, from Inverness and Point Reyes and Mt Tamalpais up to Mendocino and down to Big Sur; and inland to the Delta and Lake Tahoe.

By the time I received the PhD in 1974, academia was a less attractive place than when I had entered Berekely in 1967. Learning was being displaced by political-correctness, and speech codes, thought-police, and quotas and preferences were assembling the elements of the stifling bureaucracy they have since become. As I did not fit any of the categories preferred by academic quota-counters, and saw the handwriting on the wall, I was fortunate to find alternative employment across the Bay at Stanford Research Institute. My employment there coincided with the first of many 'Energy Independence' initiatives, which led me through the coal fields of West Virginia and Wyoming, the sociology of coal-slurry pipelines, the virtues of renewable energy sources(solar, wind), electricity pricing structures, the unstable politics of the Mideast, and many other topics that have taken on ever-greater urgency in the intervening years.

A chance assignment for Honda Motor Company in 1977 led to my first encounter with Japan. I helped Honda with their first American venture, an auto assembly plant in Ohio, and introduced other Japanese companies to American customs and folkways (for which, of course, my education in Sociology was excellent preparation, though I could not have foreseen that while at Berkeley).

My enchantment with Japan continued, and I moved there (here) in 1981, where I live now. I continued with the consulting business until 1991, when I started The Kamakura Print Collection (http://www.kamprint.com), a printmaking workshop specializing in photogravure etching. This transition was less abrupt than it may seem, since I had become familiar with ultraviolet light sources through a client, and had seen some examples of 19th-century photogravures a couple of years earlier. It gradually dawned on me that I could bring more happiness to people through artwork than by writing reports. To simplify: Art touches the depths of the human psyche in ways that ratiocination and exposition can never do.

These days I do three things: <1> travel, <2> exhibits, <3> copperplate etching and printing in my workshop. I've been trekking in Mongolia and Nepal, in virtually every prefecture of Japan, in Norway, Portugal, and other parts of Europe. There are many other places on my 'to-do' list. This year includes exhibits in France, Italy, the United States, Japan, and Russia. Photogravure etching is a technically very demanding process, unforgiving of the slightest error. Over the past 20 years, I have made 269 editions, not a very large number, but perhaps more memorable than the cheaper/faster images that can be produced in larger quantity. Visitors to exhibits sometimes ask why I go to all this trouble. My answer is: Look closely at the prints, their tactile three-dimensional quality, the subtle gradation of tones, the way the ink mixes with the fibers of the hand-made paper or washi, the unique ink-on-paper look combined with the spontaneity of the impression. Not everyone 'gets it', of course, but enough people do to keep the workshop going.

The website can only hint at the look of the original prints, but those viewers who would like to browse may do so freely at http://www.kamprint.com (there are links for purchasing as well). A new related site which allows searching by mood, ink quality, Series, and other characteristics is athttp://kamprint.com/xpress/ , and a blog is at http://kamprint.com/views/.

Comments are welcome!

Dissertation Title: 
Social Advocacy and the Legal Process