When my parents and I were in Washington D.C. in 2006, visiting my brother, we were lucky enough to catch the Robert Bechtle retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. It was one of the most impressive art exhibitions I've ever seen, and Bechtle's photorealist paintings have stuck with me ever since.
Bechtle is a pretty big name when it comes to photorealism, and apparently his car "portraits" are well-known enough to spawn a (small) Flickr pool in homage. Aside from the car portraits, Bechtle used a lot of photographs of his family as inspiration for his paintings; walking around the exhibit it was a strange way of walking into someone's life - you started with him meeting his wife, went through their children's early childhood, and then it was like you were witness to the breakdown of their marriage and the subsequent remarriages.
"You can take photographs of something but you never possess it because it's too fast.. there's something very intense about the experience of sitting down and having to look at it in the way that you do in order to make a drawing of it, or to make a painting of it.. but by the time you've done that you feel that you've really understood what you were looking at and also that you've felt a little of yourself there, and somehow it becomes a way of.. possessing the experience in a way that another manner doesn't quite seem to do."
Quite heart-breaking to think that Bechtle painted his divorce, isn't it? Art critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote in the New Yorker magazine, "Life is incredibly complicated, and the proof is that when you confront any simple, stopped part of it you are stupefied."