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Charles Ray Walker (aka Bamboo Charlie)

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About the Artist/Site

Growing up in El Campo, Texas, Charles Ray Walker worked alongside his relatives picking cotton. He left home at 15, and worked a variety of jobs in landscaping and irrigation before moving to Los Angeles in 1971. By 1992 he found himself homeless, searching the L.A. River for items he could sell. In Boyle Heights, near where Olympic Boulevard crosses the river, Walker spotted a narrow grove of bamboo hugging the side of a warehouse. The warehouse owners agreed to let him live on the property, and for the next two decades “Bamboo Charlie” worked to transform the vacant land into a hidden oasis of stepped fruit and vegetable gardens and playful found-object grottoes.

From the street, a narrow cut through thick bamboo led to a dusty path that meandered along the warehouse. Alcoves dug into the hard earth had been turned into shrines of discarded toys, each display speaking to a specific cultural or religious theme. In the center of the environment was Bamboo Charlie’s one-room shack, along with an outdoor couch and television where regular visitors gathered. Huge graffiti murals by various artists cover the warehouse wall; some of these elaborate tags are signed “to Bamboo Charlie.”

Bamboo Charlie was found dead in his home on August 26, 2012, having succumbed to heart disease. Charlie’s friends attempted to preserve the environment, but one year later reported that most of the work had been vandalized.

Sources:

Becerra, Hector. “‘Bamboo Charlie’ Builds His Private Universe.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 05 July 2010. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/05/local/la-me-bamboo-20100705>.

Becerra, Hector. “‘Bamboo Charlie’ Leaves behind His L.A. River Paradise.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 02 Sept. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
<http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/02/local/la-me-bamboo-charlie-20120902>.

~Brett Hanover



Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Los Angeles, California, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 34.052234 / -118.243685

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