‘Tis the Season – for Winter Sounds in West Hollywood

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The season has arrived – for holidays, the winter solstice, gift-buying frenzies, but best of all, for Winter Sounds, the city of West Hollywood’s free indoor concert series.

This year, three Saturday evening concerts are on tap, beginning this weekend, on December 2nd, with the smooth sounds of Jennifer Leitham and her holiday jazz show.  A world-renowned jazz bassist, composer, and vocalist, Leitham has played on upwards of 140 albums, including ten of her own. She’s performed with Mel Torme, Doc Severinsen, Peggy Lee, and k.d. lang, among others, and is the subject of  the award-winning film I Stand Corrected, a documentary about her public gender transition from John to Jennifer. At Winter Sounds, she’ll perform both warm holiday classics and standards.

Come January, when the holiday rush has settled down, listeners will have something to “hear” forward to – Paris Chansons French and Russian classics, on January 20th.  Los Angeles’ premiere French and international band, Paris Chansons offers original renditions of favorites from Aznavour, Brel, Dassin, Piaf and Montand, as well as songs by contemporary artists including Zax.  Their exhilarating performances feature four multilingual singers and keyboard, violin, bass, guitar, and drums . Along with international classics, traditional jazz standards will be on tap as Paris Chansons leads listeners on a global journey that may make you want to get up and dance. 

And February 17th, enjoy the American jazz standards of the Peter Kavanaugh Quartet.  A guitarist, bandleader and composer, Kavanaugh interprets jazz standards and popular American songs with a smoothly sophisticated take that’s infused with West Coast jazz. His upbeat sound features electric guitar and vibraphone as he transports listeners to the leisurely swing of post-war, mid-century-modern Southern California, and adds in unexpected thrills like Bossa Nova, blues, bop, and gypsy jazz.

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The concerts each begin at 5 p.m., offering an hour and fifteen minutes of scintillating sounds. All concerts are held at the West Hollywood Park Public Meeting Room/City Council Chambers at the West Hollywood Library; seating is first come, first served. 

The Library is located at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. Free validated parking is available for the multi-story parking structure adjacent to the library.

Winter Sounds is sponsored by the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Arts program.  Click here for an online listing of the 2017-2018 Winter Sounds concerts.

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Zoo Lights: Dazzling Displays and Nocturnal Creatures

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The Los Angeles Zoo’s now-traditional, always dazzling holiday offering, Zoo Lights, is back through January 7th. With live reindeer, a beautifully decorated Santa stop on select dates, and GLAZA’s opulent carousel to ride, this is a family fest that shouldn’t be missed.

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Above, a new LED-lit tree at the Zoo Lights entrance.

This year, tots in tow really got into the act, dancing to the holiday music, saying “Wow” to the lustrous display.

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Favorite sections of the show return this year, such as the purple lights and disco balls, the pink flamingos, the almost other-worldly green and orange ornaments with sparkling green lights dancing over the ramp that visitors can use instead of steps to enter the zoo.

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Awarded USA Today’s “10 Best Zoo Lights” honors in 2015 and 2016 and nominated again this year,  new features include a musical holiday tree, a re-designed water show, and a beautiful Northern Lights series of animal constellations.

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The finale – after passing through a more-dazzling-than-ever glittering tunnel, replaces the tribute to Hollywood visuals with a new Wild Wonderland that highlights endangered and vulnerable animal species. Faux snow also falls in a fun dance area which every small child we saw was absolutely thrilled by. 

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The ceiling of the reptile house, open for visitors to explore the exhibits, is more decorated than ever, too.

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As to the living creatures at the zoo, along with amphibians basking in the warm light of the reptile exhibit, there’s a lovely aquarium display.  Outside, swans sail and meerkats pop up for nocturnal views.

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A docent passed a set of shed-antlers from the reindeer, offering kids and adults alike a chance to touch these as well as watching Santa’s friends in their enclosure.

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For more information and tickets, click here. 

The L.A. Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Dr. in Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; photos Jack Burke

Go West: Utopian Vision for One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival

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The city of West Hollywood’s One City, One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival offers a wide range of programs and a utopian vision for 2017. Running through June 30th, the fest’s theme of “Go West,” references movement toward a utopian promised land, dreams of gay liberation, and the freedom to live openly in West Coast communities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and West Hollywood. Featuring interactive, performance, visual arts, and education events, this year’s programming explores LGBTQ history, culture, and art.

Dubbed a “Day of History,” on Saturday June 3rd, One City One Pride offers multiple events that will take place throughout the city.

At 11 a.m., Radar Productions presents Drag Queen Storytime in the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room. The free event includes children’s stories and crafts. Radar brought the same acclaimed program to the San Francisco Public Library. The meeting room is located at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., 90069.

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Also starting at 11 a.m., the Stuart Timmons LGTBQ History Tour combines an urban hike with an entirely original performance art piece. Written by author and historian Stuart Timmons and directed by Jason Jenn, the tour leads participants to a variety of locations.

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They’ll encounter over a dozen costumed characters, bringing the history of West Hollywood to vibrant life.  The experience includes a brief shuttle ride that drops passengers on Sunset Blvd.  Each tour lasts between 90 and 120 minutes, with departures scheduled every fifteen minutes between 11 and 1 p.m. Live music will be performed while participants wait to board. This is the third year for the charming tour, presented in a final staging to celebrate the legacy of the recently deceased Timmons. Timmons is the author of The Trouble with Harry Hay and GAY L.A., among other works.

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ADA accessible throughout,  colorful parasols will be provided during the tour, offering shade from the sun and enhancing the lively interactive atmosphere. This unique event starts at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., 90069.

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From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., trans artist Yozmit, the first artist to receive a Trans Initiative Grant from the City of West Hollywood, presents the interactive performance installation “Totem Building.” Yozmit will create transformative visual wearable art pieces to be used as a ritual object or totem. The audience will be invited to create prayers and intentions which she will collect for part of a future performance.

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The artist will stitch a ribbon or bead onto her Pyramid Dress, as a symbol of exchange for those intentions and prayers. This interactive, transformative performance will be held on Santa Monica Boulevard near San Vicente Boulevard.

At 5 p.m., there will be a screening of Reel in the Closet, a feature-length documentary. The film connects viewers with queer people from the past, utilizing rare home movie footage that dates back as far as the 1930s. Filmmaker Stu Maddux also discovered recorded news stories and community productions, and regularly updates the documentary, encouraging audience members to share movies of their own pasts. Maddux notes that he embarked upon the project when he was searching “for a way to really understand the people who came before me, not just read about them.”  The film will be screened at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers, located at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. 90069

Also at the City Council Chambers, throughout the day the film LA: A Queer History will be shown in a continuous loop; ONE Archives LGBTQ History Exhibits will be displayed in West Hollywood Park.

Later in June, One City, One Pride highlights include:

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“Out There,” a group art exhibition at the Los Angeles Art Association’s Gallery 825 opening June 9th from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibition will run through June 18th, with the gallery open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Monday. The gallery is located at 825 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, 90069.

Also on the 9th, from 6 to 10 p.m., the Annual Dyke March begins with a protest sign making workshop conducted by Sparkleblob’s Julianna Parr, followed by a march down Santa Monica Blvd. at 8 p.m. Confirmed speakers include Patrisse Cullors of #blacklivesmatter, and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.  the The workshop takes place and march begins at Sal Guariello Veterans’ Memorial, 8447 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069.

From 7 to 9 p.m. on the 9th, Yozmit’s Migration of the Monarchs and WALK will take place. Based on the idea that everything in life transforms, the trans artist will perform WALK as live ambient art along Santa Monica Blvd. between Robertson Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd.

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June 11th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., LA Pride hosts a human rights march in lieu of a parade. The march starts at Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles, and concludes near West Hollywood Park. 

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And June 29th, at 7:30 p.m., there will be a world premiere film screening of Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies, and Feminism, a new documentary on the life and accomplishments of late activist and author Jeanne Cordova. Film director Gregoria Davila and Cordova’s partner Lynn Harris Ballen participate in a post-screening discussion. The screening takes place at West Hollywood City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., 90069.

For a full calendar of One City One Pride events through June 30th, visit    www.weho.org/pride

One City One Pride is organized by the City of West Hollywood through WeHo Arts, the City’s Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission and Arts Division, with input from the City’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory Board, and other community partners. 

 

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  • Genie Davis; Photos: Weho.org

Art Gone Wild with Book Club: Going Native at Durden and Ray

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Stephen Wright’s post-modern novel Going Native is a wild ride of literary fiction fused with pop culture.  When an art exhibition is based around the book, and includes performance pieces and cocktails made with absinthe, then art lovers can expect a wild ride when it comes to the exhibition, too.

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Durden and Ray’s delightful and provocative “Book Club: Going Native” is indeed wild – wildly inventive and conceptually clever. Curator Steven Wolkoff assembled a cadre of visual artists, a mixologist, hair stylists, dancers, and a choreographer to create an opening that fused art with performance plus an excerpted book reading.

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While I’d only read a few chapters of the novel when the opening rolled around, it did not dim my pleasure in the experiential evening, which included the work of: Ania Catherine – choreographer, Ben Jackel – visual artist, Constance Mallinson – visual artist, Dani Dodge – visual artist, Dave Bondi – toy designer, David Leapman – visual artist, Kate Kelton – actress/artist, Gavin Bunner – visual artist, Jayna Zweiman – architect and co-founder of the Pussyhat Project, Jenny Hager – visual artist, Jon Flack – visual artist, Kio Griffith – visual artist, Liza Ryan – visual artist, Michael Webster – composer, Robin Jackson – best bartender/mixologist in LA (per LA Weekly), Steven Wolkoff – visual artist, Tom Dunn – visual artist, Traci Sakosits – Creative Director of Vidal Sassoon, North America, and Matthew Kazarian – Vidal Sassoon.

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Dancers with their hair knotted to each other spun in a circle. Mixologist Robin Jackson poured sapphire, saline solution, absinthe, and oleosaccharum into cups and candy-colored water pistols for guests to shoot into their and other’s throats. The guns themselves were crafted by toy designer David Bondi, whose design, packaged and labeled as “Durden n’ Ray” also hung from a display rack on a wall.

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Artist Dani Dodge offered up a compelling, layered painting “Previously Unthinkable Patterns.”

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The painting, a mixed-media fusion of paint, duct tape, party favors, a piece of a wedding dress and the ashes of papers that contained burned fears dripped off the canvas literally with a 72″ tulle train puddling on the ground. The ghostly shape of the car that figures large in the novel emerges from the layers like a ship through thick fog, the canvas begs to be touched, but one doesn’t touch; still the almost physiological impression of being touched by the artwork persists.

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Above, artists Dani Dodge and Kio Griffith.

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Kio Griffith’s “Whichever Wolf You Feed,” a mixed media piece of wood, sheet metal, paint, sandpaper, and a ventilation duct, oozes mystery; the mood abetted by a dancer positioned against the corner wall next to the piece.

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David Leapman’s “Salt hungry butterflies,” gold ink on black paper, has an elegaic feel that evokes calligraphy and Japanese woodblock prints. The artist contributed three similar works in all to the exhibition. Jenny Hager’s abstract “Bedlamite,” acrylic and marker on canvas, is bold and heated; Tom Dunn’s detailed, fascinating “Mesopotamia Drawing Series” functions as a kind of adjunct to the book’s chapters which are themselves a series of connected yet separate stories.

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Curator Wolkoff  created a series of “wedding rings” crafted of acrylic paint without support, they are as warped as the book’s belief system. The spacey stop-motion video of Traci Sakosits and Matthew Kazarian, “Basic Space,” compels repeated viewing, as does Dodge’s second piece in the show, the haunting “Evidence,” a video shown wall mounted on a mini-iPad.

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All eyes were turned to Jayna Zweiman’s “It considered other facts, other views,” a dark green kaleidoscope-like sculpture which guests peered through and took IG-worthy semi-selfies through.

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Constructed with mirror, plywood, and oil-based paint, the work was fabricated by Paul Guillemette and suspended from the gallery’s ceiling. The architect and co-founder of the Pussyhat Project has created a wonderful, changing fractured image that reflects both the quality of the book and a reader’s perception of it. It’s a fun house mirror take on art, life, and novel. The work’s green exterior represents the color of the stolen car driven by the novel’s protagonist.

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While seeing the exhibition without the dancers, drink, and electronic soundtrack hum is a different experience than the opening night, it is a worthy one. The art stands alone, and one could know nothing of the book and have heard nothing of the opening’s vastly entertaining art circus and still enjoy it.

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Above, a pop art distillation of the book, “Helter Skelter” by Gavin Bunner, goache and ink on paper.

Like many of Durden and Ray’s shows, this one is edgy and thought-provoking; the gallery and the art collective are building a reputation as a must-see in the crowded field of LA art.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis