As with any form of human expression, graffiti has undergone the full spectrum of reactions from proscription to embrace by the avant-garde. From the crude tags put up by amateur vandals to the sophisticated pictures that enthusiasts proclaim as “street art,” it is in the public eye as never before. Once might even argue that, with the international success and recognition of graffiti artists like Banksy and Invader, that the form has become respectable, even passé.

Well, it’s at least as true that whenever a form of human expression seems to have said all it can say, when it’s become too comfortable, someone will shake it up.

Urban explorers poking through Detroit’s Michigan Central Station found a sumptuous graffiti tableaux featuring an infant held in an unfolding flower bud. Text ringed it like a picture frame: they were born into a world overgrown/of crumbled walls the rats called home/but beauty springs from any soil/of its own but often with toil. Next to it was another painting, this one an almost photo-realistic picture of a blank wall in a decaying building.

The explorers, struck by what they saw, documented the find online and appealed for help in identifying the location. They soon established that it was the nearby Roosevelt Warehouse, also in Detroit; upon locating the wall depicted in the previous graffiti, they found it bedecked with another painting. This one depicted a small child of ambiguous gender and race wandering through weed-choked ruins and beholding a luminous golden keyhole bedecked with jewels and, impossibly, golden wings.

Its accompanying text: potential is there, in they and you and me/all that’s needed to unlock is the key/but though we know where the keyhole be found/where might a key be when falsehoods abound.

Another near-photographic scene accompanied it, a breadcrumb to the next stage of the story. Before long, the secret had spread well beyond the tiny community of urban explorers in Detroit to encompass a website, where enthusiasts cataloged the location of each new stage of the story and collaborated to decipher the clues as to the next location of the art.

All this independent of the artist, who remained anonymous and unnamed. By the apparent conclusion of their first “story,” fans had taken to calling the artist Breadcrumbs.

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