Cosmopolitan Las Vegas a nocturnal habitat for artist Alisha Kerlin

Las Vegas isn’t home to a traditional zoo, but for the next few weeks you can walk among other party animals and observe, or even join an artist-at-work inside her glass cage at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Looking in at the habitat.

Artist-in-residence Alisha Kerlin is welcoming inhabitants to her nocturnal zoo habitat in the P3 Studio from 6 to 11 p.m. through Jan. 16, 2014.

As part of the interactive “Marking Territory” exhibition, Kerlin and her artist assistant create fake rocks out of chicken wire and cement then invite guests to put on a tail, ears and apron and help paint the rocks in a studio decorated with nocturnal lighting, stars, foliage, animal print beanbag chairs and a water feature.

Some guests remain passive watchers while others decide to mark their territory and evolve into nocturnal creatures.

Inside the habitat.

“They’re fake rocks but they’re real sculptures,” says Kerlin, explaining she chose to sculpt rocks because of their relationship to the desert and also because there are very few rules around their size, shape and color. “You can see everyone’s decisions and the differences between their decisions. Sometimes it’s really dainty and sometimes it’s really animalistic.”

Artist feedings (when Kerlin and her artist assistant — or a lucky guest — eat a meal provided by a Cosmopolitan restaurant) take place at 8 p.m.

Known primarily for her colorful oil paintings (as well as what she describes as potato sculptures), Kerlin — who is the collection manager at the Marjorie Barrick Museum — moved to Las Vegas from New York to teach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the artist-in-residence in spring 2012.

Artist-in-residence Alisha Kerlin and her assistant look out from their habitat at all the Cosmopolitan's party animals. (Photo by Tomoko Daido.)

She has a BFA and an MFA, and her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, including New York, Brooklyn, Long Island City, San Francisco, Boston and Knoxville.

“I wouldn’t be able to make my normal work, my paintings, in that space because it’s a fish bowl,” says Kerlin of P3 Studio, adding, “I’ve never done anything where you’re on view behind glass. It’s extremely vulnerable but also exciting.”

Kerlin says she has no idea what the habitat will look like when the exhibition closes on Jan. 16 because so many guests have been helping to create rocks.

She plans to incorporate the rocks into her upcoming exhibition “Road Runners That Won’t Run Far” at the Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery in Las Vegas during the summer of 2014.