Can life imitate art? Absolutely! Air transportation was designed by modeling and imitating the lift maneuvers and flying patterns of birds. Even computers follow the typing patterns and thinking patterns of the human brain. Everything that is man-made had to have been inspired by a natural occurrence.
Art imitating life?- The theater of the absurd, existentialism, the many mythologies and philosophical ideas proposed by great thinkers are also based on everyday life occurrences. In other words, life and art continuously and consistently imitate each other.
Yes, both happen. Art often imitates life. It's one of the main purposes of art. Yet sometimes things often happen in real life similarly to how they happened in art, and we are surprised. Let's say that a decade before America elected Obama there was a character of a black president on a tv show, for example.
Sure. Both of those things can be true. I tend to think, though, that art imitates life more than the other way around. In a practical sense, portraits and landscapes could not be drawn without real life. Neither could short stories or novels be written without real life--even science fiction and fantasy model, to some degree, real places and real things. Life imitating art is less common, but I'm sure there are instances where people have done something they've seen or read about at some point in their lives.
Such a novel as F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is, in its tableau of the Jazz Age, certainly is an example of art imitating life. So, too, are many of Ernest Hemingway's that express the disillusionment of post World War I and II. For, many of his personal experiences are incorporated into his writing. One example is his novel A Farewell to Arms in which the main character is an ambulance driver in World War I, a position Hemingway himself once held.
On the other hand, there have been movies made about hijackings of planes and robberies which people have imitated in real life. The Max Headroom broadcast signal incident was a television signalling hijacking in Chicago, Illinois, on the evening of November 22, 1987. The intruder, who imitated the background effect in the Max Headroom television and movie appearances.