LA Zoo Lights: See Them Roar



Photo/All Photos: Jack Burke

For the second year in a row, holiday light seekers can enjoy a zoo-lightful extravaganza with L.A. Zoo Lights.  This is the replacement for the DWP Holiday Light Festival, an iconic drive-through light show that closed in 2009 – and it’s oh-so-much better.


The color palette thrills with purples, pinks, greens, blues and reds in vibrant LED lights.


There’s a rain forest themed laser light show…

Rain Forest Canopy - literally a canopy...
Rain Forest Canopy – literally a canopy…


Silver birds fly over purple lights and disco balls, a stunning green cactus garden draws oohs and awes, prancing illuminated bison and flamingos dance, and glowing meerkats shine near their living counterparts enclosures. It’s all as enthralling for adults as it is for little ones.


There’s also Santa, and live reindeer.


No place else in Los Angeles has live reindeer, and they’re extremely cool creatures. Overheard “Look mommy, a unicorn.” Not quite.

But there COULD be unicorns – there’s just about every other animal represented in the dazzling self-guided zoo walk-through, which takes about two hours to explore at a leisurely pace – longer if you stop as we did for churros and hot chocolate. On-site bar vendors also offer infusions to that cocoa or separate cocktails.


The exhibition has been expanded this year to include a water and light show, and access to the reptiles and insects of LAIR, an indoor exhibit topped by a giant illuminated snake, and perfect for warming up on a chilly night as well as for admiring cold blooded creatures who thrive in the heat. What else is aglow?


Painted palms…


Christmas ornaments shining…


Rhinos, alligators, and Christmas trees…oh my…

Guests will be charmed as they stroll through the zoo, enjoying a rainbow of animal figures, ribbiting and lit bull frogs sculpted from 3,750 water bottles, an illuminated animal riff on a Hollywood red carpet scene, and tunnels of sparkling lights.

Walking the red carpet
Walking the red carpet…


Strolling the glittering tunnels…


Elephant Parade…

Returning in a new spot this year are the fabulously cool 3D projections on elephant statues which morph between elephants strung with holiday lights, wearing sweaters, or covered with holiday wrapping paper.



The technology behind this fabulous light show was created by art director Gregg Lacy and Bionic League, well known for creating light shows for artists including Kanye West and Daft Punk.


Should you go? A resounding yes. It’s the perfect event for the holiday season in Los Angeles. While earlier in the evening, small tykes and strollers abound, by 8 p.m. the crowd skews older. There’s plenty of room at all times to see the light shows and stroll the paths.

L.A. Zoo Lights runs 7 days a week through January 3rd from 6 to 10 p.m. , closed December 24 and 25. More details and tickets can be found here. The L.A. Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Dr. in Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; all photos:  Jack Burke

Definitely in Our Wheelhouse: Wheel House Cheese Shop


Post-Thanksgiving, the holidays upon us, what to serve guests? What to bring to that holiday party? Where to chill out after an evening at Culver City galleries? A spot to relax with a great glass of wine, some delicious cheese? The solution to all of the above may just be the Wheel House Cheese Shop, purveyors of over a hundred cheeses, as well as fine jams, olive oils, imported fish, crackers and bread, and gourmet meats.

Best of all, this spot has a garden with pretty plants, rustic benches, and table service – the cheese and cured meat boards, paired with a good vino makes for a wonderful respite from the hustle of the season – or any time of year.


Owner Alex Josef says his goal is to “Educate the community about the quality of cheeses and meats from around the world.” His intelligent cheese case and delicious cheese pairing platters, go a long way toward fun, flavor – and education.


The shop’s cheese case is organized by the region in which it was prepared,  and Josef notes that perhaps his most unique offerings are Le puits d’ astier, crafted in France by Rodolphe le Meunier; another unusual cheese is Parish Hills cider-washed cheese, created by a cheese-maker in Vermont.

Wheel House offers a cheese board and sandwich menu, with boards including a cheese, meat, and Wheel House combined cheese and meat option.  Sandwiches, served on a French baguette include a classic caprese, salami and brie, and ham and swiss – the latter using Jambon French Ham.

We tried the Wheel House board, and it was a remarkable spread of contrasting flavors. Cheeses included nutty, sweet Pecorino Muscano, Brabander aged goat milk Gouda, buttery and silky Brie cream cheese, pork and pistachio pate, and Italian Speck. Also included: a deliciously aromatic quince paste imported from Spain, and tangy cornichons. Crisp toast squares and a small bowl of lovely nuts including Marcona almonds were also on our menu.

The boards were paired with Funk Zone Blend wine, combining Syrah and Viognier in a fruity, delightfully dry mix.

Wheel House has been open sixteen months, and serving wine and beer for two. However, Josef has spent many more months curating cheese. “Some of my favorites are truffle Sheep’s milk cheese, Swiss and Cheddar from Wisconsin, and En Dante cheese made in Central California,” he relates. “I once thought I’d become a chef, and then I got into cheese for fun. This is a passion project.”

Wheel House platter

It’s easy to share Josef’s passion. The shop offers curated cheese and wine pairings and classes, too. Cheese 101 provides instruction in entertaining with cheese, and how to create a perfect cheese board by pairing different types and consistencies.

Wheel House gift

And, just in time for holiday parties, Wheel House provides full catering services.

Wheel House also hosts family nights – recently, the shop screened the appropriate mouse/cheese classic, Ratatouille.
 Wheel House is located at

12954 W. Washington Blvd. in Culver City, and is open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.


What I Want for the Holidays: Wish List at Gabba Gallery

Wish List 3.0 is an annual must-go for art lovers and those buying presents for the art-centric on their holiday list. Cash and carry, first come, first served, there’s an ever changing menu of art on the walls at Gabba Gallery in the Westlake district.

Paintings were literally flying off the walls at the opening last Saturday, but with the show running until December 20th and fresh art hung daily, there’s still plenty to purchase and plenty to see.

This is another of those “only at Gabba” exhibitions: unique, cutting edge art with an emphasis on street art; amazing prices, something for everyone in terms of style, and the buzz of discovered, uncovered, and coveted art.


Above, gallery owner and curator Jason Ostro (l), co-curator for Wish List, Phil Santos (r) as they point to a work that also describes their ethos. The piece was created by artist Amy Smith, a mixed media collage created in part with recycled magazines.

nvr alone

Chuck Self, a.k.a. NVRAlone, has a simple message in all his art, whether it’s a heart shaped globe or text over vibrant color. “My pieces are very simple, clean and direct. ‘Just be kind,’ that’s my message. I’m typically a street photographer and I’ve experienced so much great art that I’ve joined the club, and began to create myself.”


Alex Schaefer describes his work as plein air painting. “It’s all about a desire to go places. I create unique impressions, whether it is from the top floor of City Hall in downtown LA, or a distant location. I’ve painted all over the world. I love taking road trips, that’s one if the things I love to do. I capture what I see in my work,” he notes. “It’s my bread,and butter. I have good affordable price points, people love  well-done cityscapes. I get the opportunity to walk outdoors and paint the changing landscape of LA right now. I love what I paint.” There’s an ethereal quality to Schaefer’s work that casts his beautifully realistic street scenes in a dreamy light.


Above: a piece by Wish List co-curator Phil Santos, one of the sexiest and most dimensional tooth brushes in town.


Essi Zimm (r) and James Johnson (l)

Their art had already sped off Gabba’s walls when we caught up to them. Essi  Zimm says “My art is folk lore collage. It reveals the truth behind folk lore, the moralistic and revealing truth.” She’s been a part of Gabba’s Wish List show for three years.

James Johnson also works in collage. “I use found newsprint as the underlayment for pieces that feature political and social commentary. It’s kind of like a bill board with different layers exposed. I used Exacto knives to superimpose and peel back old layers. My work is based on the interpretation of images.”

jodi art

For Gabba’s Wish List, Jodi Bonassi  displayed small, beautifully wrought pieces of social realism. “The backgrounds are floaty and expressive of children in our society. I have elements of the satirical in my pieces. My work has been seen as expressionism, a more sophisticated form of street art, social realism and figurative.” Or all of the above.  Don’t miss this artist’s collage-like style and fine art execution.


Pasteur White’s bold mix of paint and marker creates vivid appeal, above.


Jaime Becker’s mixed media, “Metro” pulls viewers into its urban landscape/dreamscape.




Acrylic and mixed media: Can’tStopGoodBoy’s “Crooked Mouse.” Street art is visually stimulating wall art.

In short: Go to Gabba. Buy and gift great art that’s reasonably priced. Rinse and repeat.

The show runs through December 20th, giving plenty of time for repeat visits to find the art pieces you love best. Gabba is located in the Westlake District at 3126 Beverly Blvd.

CB1 Gallery: Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia – Plegarias


The Spanish title of Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia’s solo show at CB1 refers to the vernacular for prayer. A devout Christian, Segovia seeks to present truly Christian based contemporary art distanced from right wing politics and secularization.


“Being a liberal, young, contemporary Christian, it seemed to me that there was a window in which to revitalize the conversation about Christianity. There are so many traditions and theologies to draw from,” he notes.


“The setting of this sculpture, Eye of God, references prayer banners set up in chapel settings,” the Juarez-born artist relates.


It’s unusual to see modern art infused with religious vitality. There’s nothing old school or conservative in Segovia’s message or his work. Fusing the vibrant colors of Mexico with golden tones that draw comparison to images of religious icons and traces of Aztec culture, Segovia freshens the genre of religious art with sweeping complexity.

CB1 is located 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90021; the exhibition runs through December 19th.

  • Genie Davis; all photos: Jack Burke