City on the Verge | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

City on the Verge

Opening: DiFatta's show will open Thursday, May 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and then hang at Nunnery's Gallery, 426 Meadowbrook Road, through June 13. For more information, call 981-4426.

Anthony DiFatta's portraits of familiar landmarks and people in Jackson capture the essence of who and what they are with economy in composition and rich contrasts in color. DiFatta's own family history in Jackson, both present and past, inspires his one-man show, "About Jackson," at Nunnery's Gallery opening May 13.

DiFatta's mother grew up in Jackson, and now he and his wife, Melissa, are raising their son here, while renovating a house in historic Belhaven. "When I decided to do this show, we were looking all over for a house, and we just knew how much we loved being near downtown in Belhaven with the architecture, old homes and the great people there," he says.

DiFatta has debunked all Big Ben associations I had with the Lamar Life Building Clock Tower. It will be forever the powdery-fleshed Marilyn Monroe of Capitol Street, with her skirt flaring out at the base of the canvas, simultaneously grounding the painting and forcing our eye upward along the knife-edged pleats, past the rising arms on the clock, to the ruffled flag on top. The contrast between the white flag-clad tower and beachy-blue sky also calls up sandcastle memories.

Renderings of the New Capitol command our attention beyond the familiar nod on the evening news or the general impression of an imposing white blob out the corner of the windshield while navigating one-way streets. One striking image of the dome places it at a 45-degree angle to the horizon—the eagle on top in the upper-left corner of the painting looks as if it is flying off with the dome, pulling it past the straight and narrow white steeple of a church in the background.

DiFatta's dome painting illustrates his belief that "this city seems like it has been on the verge of something great happening and it has just been tipped over the edge." In his statement about his upcoming show, he cites the Farish Street renovations, Arts Commission and Arts Alliance projects, and Belhaven's Urban Main Street Program among the many exciting efforts pushing Jackson to its full potential.

The pared-down colors and composition of his images belie DiFatta's history as a graphic artist; yet there is a depth here beyond a CD cover or poster. There is a fondness and familiarity that comes with maturity and a love of his subjects. Several pieces in the show will be portraits of people including Bobby Rush. His image evokes Rush's personality and music with the sweep of his sideburns and the way his mouth seems ready to speak or sing.

But the new direction for Tony seems to be portraiture of the city itself. "I wanted to do cityscapes, but that has been so done and overdone," says DiFatta. "I didn't want this show to be contrived or a re-hash. It was frustrating at first. This is the first time I've started with an idea for a show, then did the work behind it."

From rooftop painting sessions on the Old Capitol Inn ("It was very cool but very hot," says DiFatta) to the empty lot at the corner of High and State streets, DiFatta creates a new perspective on this city. One horizontal painting of the skyline is at once utterly familiar yet somehow different. The majestic composition fills the center of the canvas with the New Capitol, yet the entire bottom third of the canvas is weighted by mottled green southern oaks, while the upper third is cloud-dappled sky. Each distinct building is a facial feature in this portrait of Jackson, making the subject familiar, yet we feel we haven't seen it quite this way before.

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