This is the story of Nicaraguan-based French artist Jean Marc Calvet: a man whose complex life, obscurities and misfortunes overwhelmed him while living in Costa Rica in 2001. This is also the story of a man who saw the light after many years of suffering by finding painting in Costa Rica and changed the course of his life into a positive, healthy and successful one through art. Part II of III. Read Part I here.
In 2001, Jean Marc Calvet had finally escaped his hectic life in the United States and arrived in Costa Rica in search of a peaceful, quiet and calm existence. Little did he know it was here where Marco – his fictitious and protective alter ego – would bring out the worst in him. Little did he know that for a whole year, he’d be fighting against Marco in search of the light to save himself.
During his time in Costa Rica, Calvet bought a house in Piedades, Santa Ana, located west of San José. From an outsider’s perspective, his life was quite normal; he had a house, his own business (the old Café Loft in Barrio Amón, San José), and two cars.
For Calvet, this normal and material life did not matter. At this point, he was 37 years old and surrendering. For 25 years he had lived with the overwhelming guilt and unspoken trauma resulting from being raped at the age of 12. This guilt, along with Marco, was taking him to a dark place once again, full of drugs, alcohol and self-harm. Marco and Jean Marc had arrived in hell.
“I wanted to kill myself. My weight was 130 kilos; alcohol, drugs. That was not new for me because I had lived on the streets, but there was a time in my life where I had stopped everything. [This time] I knew I was killing myself on purpose,” Calvet told The Tico Times.
Jean Marc was slowly surrendering and allowing Marco to take over, reinforcing the imaginary stone wall he had built around himself as a child.
“It’s like a tree that you don’t water. I had survived 37 years. I couldn’t bear it anymore. I cut myself. Everything was over. I decided to lock myself up, ending [my contact] with the exterior world and die with drugs and alcohol. I took my money from my bank account. I got everything into the house and placed black plastic on the windows to avoid seeing the daylight. I disappear. I have a business, but people don’t know where I am,” Calvet recalled.
He lay in complete solitude with himself and Marco in his house on a dead-end street in Santa Ana. His neighbors called him “the crazy man on the dead-end street,” but that did not matter to Calvet.
He says now that he had reached a very fragile point of extreme depression and euphoria in his life in which drugs, alcohol, and self-harm were his scapegoat after such a period of pain, suffering, and violence. Time was taking a toll, and Costa Rica became hell for him. In Costa Rica, learning to live with himself and the past became extremely painful.
“I ate a piece of pizza every three days. I used all sorts of drugs, always the strongest ones. No marijuana. I wasn’t there to have fun and parties. I was there to die. I wanted to suffer because I had created my own hell. No paradise. It was a horrible thing,” he said. “I’d spend hours and days locked in a closet listening to voices. The pain was like stones, combining cocaine and heroine. This makes you completely crazy. I spent the four first months completely locked up, and my weight dropped.”
Once again, Jean Marc was fighting against the fictitious personality of Marco. Due to all the drugs and alcohol, he began hallucinating.
“I was hallucinating. I remember almost everything; I don’t think there’s a stronger hell than that. I opened a door to hell. After four or five months of hallucinations I saw dwarves because everything moved. They had to be dwarves because they were small. I began searching within the walls [of the house],” Calvet said. “The house had a first floor, stairs, and there was a fake wall which hid other things, but this wall was empty underneath the stairs. I go there and go boom, boom [gestures with hands as if knocking on a wall]. Ahhhh. The dwarves’ field is here. I break that.”
But Jean Marc Calvet did not find dwarves underneath the stairs. Instead, he found two buckets of paint. One bucket was blue, the other yellow.
Jean Marc found paint: the light that would save his life.
To find out how painting changed Calvet’s course, stay tuned for Part III, Jean Marc Calvet: Leaving Marco Behind.