New York Romantics Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Camilla Webster
By Camilla Webster

We waited for Hash, the artist behind New York Romantics, for what seemed like hours at Petrosino Square, but he didn’t show. I didn’t sit on the park bench there. Instead, I stared down at the hearts I knew he must have drawn a day ago on the pavement under my feet, circling around them like Sherlock Holmes. I studied them like a mystery and a Mona Lisa at the same time. Why hearts? Why chalk? Why under our feet? Why do I find them so attractive? Where are you? Hash wasn’t answering his emails.

On this sweltering day in the East Village, my eyes were glued to the chalk. He had made some letters in the octagons of the pavement, too. Was this a message for me? Should I go across to the Henley to find him? Should I follow the hearts somewhere else? I spotted a big heart on a door nearby but he wasn’t there.

Finally, after a crew lunch of Esquina boxes filled with tacos on the Petrosino Square park bench, I posted my view of the pavement on Instagram and wrote “Incomplete Love Story.” We were hot, tired, and disappointed but somewhere I felt the vibe of the true City, so East Village, so temporary, yet so wonderful. So very much like so very many New York love stories.

Instagram Post e1434744298985 Artbeat: Art Cults and Love Stories

I had wanted to chalk with him (I even brought chalk from Mary Arnold’s children store on Lexington Avenue so I could play, too, with big chalk) on this urban canvas. Then I discovered on Google that someone had been arrested this month for chalking on their stoop in Brooklyn and others on the sidewalk. This isn’t the New York of my childhood. What a changed city.

A photo posted by newyorkromantics (@newyorkromantics) on

I never caught up with Hash in person. I did hear from him on Instagram, responding to my post he wrote, “to be completed.” I almost wish he hadn’t, that he remained mysterious. Maybe one day he’d be like Banksy or the artist behind The Toynbee Tiles — the tiles which are all across New York, America, and the world inspired a cult following and even a documentary called Resurrect Dead (the full movie is available on Amazon).

He could have had a cult, hunting him and his heart messages around the world. He’d be like the artist who pastes pictures of that beautiful woman with an afro in every borough I visit that I never see either. Hash’s no show inspired me to think about all the great urban artists we never see or hear from. We cannot find them except in their creation that becomes part of our every day.

That, in itself, is quite romantic, don’t you think?