A stenciled painting, purported to be a piece of Banksy graffiti, appeared on the wall of a former Chevron station on Bush Boulevard in the Ensley Highlands neighborhood on August 29, 2008. The piece, a slightly smaller than life-size depiction of a hooded klansman hanged from a rope, was painted over on the evening of September 1 and removed entirely the next afternoon.
Banksy (allegedly Robin Gunningham, born July 28, 1973 in Bristol, England) is an internationally famous graffiti and installation artist best known for creating stencil graffiti with social and political themes. Most of his unsanctioned work can be found in Southern England. His self-published writings express his belief in the power of graffiti to force viewers to adjust their perceptions of the everyday world.
In August 2008, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Banksy executed several graffiti works in New Orleans. Shortly afterward, as Hurricane Gustav was approaching the region, the piece attributed to him appeared in Ensley. The unsigned work was painted on a gray metal-paneled wall under the canopy of the vacant station, across the street from the Bush Quik Stop near I-20/59. Marc Schiller, the founder of the "Wooster Collective" which documents Banksy's work worldwide, told The Birmingham News that, based on photographs he has seen, that the attribution to Banksy is certain.
A Quik Stop employee told reporters that two men, one with a red beard, set up a canvas screen over the worksite on the evening of Friday August 29. Internet postings about the piece led numerous visitors and photographers to the site on Sunday and Monday (Labor Day). Two men who drove down from Nashville to see it found it covered with fresh black spray paint at 11:30 that night. They returned the next morning and discussed the piece with a retired dentist who claimed to be the owner of the building. They helped the man remove the panels on which it was painted and load them into his truck. photo set
A few have noted that the image of a hanged klansman was used in the early 1990s as a skateboard decal drawn by Natas Kaupas and Kevin Ancell and distributed by Jim Thiebaud's Real Skateboards. The "hanged klansman" was also used on stage by the rap group Public Enemy in concerts in 1991-1992, including a date with U2 at Legion Field.
- Schiller, Marc (August 30, 2008) "Banksy's Road Trip Continues: Takes on the KKK in Birmingham, Alabama" Wooster Collective
- Natta, André (September 2, 2008) "Banksy was here." The Terminal
- Gray, Jeremy (September 3, 2008) "Famed artist may have left local mark." The Birmingham News
- Gray, Jeremy (September 4, 2008) "Wall believed to bear art of British artist Banksy vanishes in Birmingham." The Birmingham News
- Fahy, Jim (September 5, 2008) "Breaking the Banksy: Close encounters with an elusive graffiti artist." Birmingham Weekly.