Cheryl Kelley's fascination with cars started back in her grade-school days of playing in the dirt with her Hot Wheels toys, and it simply never let up.
Her love of painting is the only childhood passion that eclipses it.
“There was a Corvette repair shop in my neighborhood and, typical kind of 10- or 11-year-old fantasy world, I used to call this shop all the time and pretend that I had a Corvette and make fake appointments to bring my car in to get it fixed,” the Houston native admitted with a laugh.
“So the car thing has been an obsession of mine for a long time.”
Kelley, 44, is among the 38 artists featured in the exhibition “Photorealism Revisited” on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. The exhibit includes two of her paintings of shiny, curvaceous classic muscle cars.
“It's a subject matter that has a lot of meaning for me as well as aesthetic value. ... It's fun to interpret this masculine thing in a feminine way,” she said.
“There's a whole lot of Americana and the American dream and the history of our culture in the automobile and how it's changed over the years. So, there's so much nostalgia, especially now when we have all these cars that look exactly the same. They're all silver and they all look like used soap and there's too many of them. We've lost the aesthetic value, and by losing that, we've lost something as a culture.”
From Ron Kleeman's logo-emblazoned race cars to Tom Blackwell's burly motorcycles, many of the works in “Photorealism Revisited” are devoted to the wheeled machines that are so much a part of American life.
“The photorealist movement is really about capturing everyday life in America,” said Jennifer Klos, associate curator at the museum.
“America and the car culture go hand in hand.”
In 1968, gallery owner Louis K. Meisel coined the term “photorealism” to describe artists who began favoring a new type of realism inspired by photography.
Since urban scenes and pop culture icons have been favored subjects from the start, automobiles have frequently captured the eye of photorealists. Robert Bechtle, one of the movement's pioneers, is known for his paintings of sun-bleached San Francisco street scenes that paid special attention to cars. His 1970 work “'68 Cadillac” is among the exhibit's key pieces.