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Perspective UNCLE CLAUDE Everyone’s tired of defining art — it’s become the exhausted trademark question of the overly contrary. Dive into an exploration of how one writer found art a little closer to home than he expected. T E X T BY RYAN JAR R ELL W e all have a blindspot when it comes to art. There’s an etymological distinction that divvies art when it crosses the threshold of domesticity and time. In the household I was raised in, the word “art” was reserved for municipal museums, fancy coffeetable books and public spaces. When it came to objects we owned, to things in our home like illustrations, whether portraiture, landscape or abstract, were called “pictures” — regardless of whether they were print or original. Occasionally, and only occasionally, were such items referred to as “paintings.” Similarly, any sculptures were knick-knacks or souvenirs, as almost all were vestiges of vacations past. On my father’s side of the family, it would be unthinkable, utterly pretentious, to refer to anything in my grandmother’s home as art. And yet in 138 memory, some pieces of her salt & pepper shaker collection (displayed in painstakingly symmetrical arrangement behind glass), are truly, in the fullest sense of the word, beautiful. Our family portrait of a man known congenially as “Uncle Claude” has haunted our family for as long as I can remember. A sallow man with slightly effeminate features, consumptive, but handsome in a genteel manner, dressed in dark clothes undescriptive of epoch or region, Uncle Claude had been placed imposingly at the end of dark hallways or ghoulishly glaring from basements in my family for 5 generations. In recent conversations, my grandmother revealed to me that Uncle Claude had likely been painted by one of an itinerant band of portrait painters known to frequent the hills of North Carolina. Such men would have canvasses pre-painted with generic, generally gentlemanly attire of a carefully