We talk of the ripple effects from an event, a point in time that affects the flow of subsequent events in ways that are often below the surface. There is no doubt that the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for a very long time. The quarantine time period in particular left many feeling isolated in a way that was unfamiliar. Local artist Clifford Buckley, along with Congregation Ahavath Chesed, a long-standing, San Jose-area synagogue referred to as the Temple, used this time as an opportunity to create something together. The hope was to help express the feelings of the pandemic and be a tie to bind Temple members while they couldn’t be with one another in person.
Primarily a paper sculptural artist, locals may have seen and even participated in Buckley’s art form at Downtown Art Walk and the Maker Faire at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) in the past. A Temple member, Buckley was asked by Temple Development and Program Manager Ellen Berson to conceive of a project for the congregation, both a participatory activity and a time capsule of sorts. Buckley says some time of reflection brought him the idea of a wall panel depicting a wave. Berson promptly sent colored paper and instructions to all Temple members, asking them to express what they were feeling—their fears and anxieties, their hopes and dreams. Buckley, Berson, and volunteers collected the papers as they were mailed back, documenting their contents by photograph, then carefully folding each one into an origami triangle. The papers held everything from drawings to poems, from a single word to words filling the paper from edge to edge.
For this large congregation, the ripples of the pandemic were now becoming a communal wave. The folded triangles were composed by Buckley into a three-by-six-foot paper mural titled “Ebb & Flow.” Buckley describes the piece as reflecting the ebb and flow of the tide that mirrors our lives, something that can be especially palpable during a time of crisis. “The waves start from different directions of the panel and collide into the wave on the right side of the panel; this is the turbulence I felt during 2020,” he says. “The water on the left side is calmer and with a still sky, while the water and sky are stormier on the right side of the panel. The sun either represents a sunset or a sun that is rising. The storm can either be passed or brewing. It depends on whatever perspective you have when viewing the artwork.”
During the pandemic, “isolation became the hurdle we had to overcome,” says Buckley. “Connecting and communicating any way possible was tantamount to survival.” “Ebb and Flow,” he summarizes, “represents resiliency and the fact that we most often make it out of life’s storms.” Sadly, however, many did not escape COVID-19, so Buckley also views it as a memorial and a prayer wall for those who didn’t make it through the pandemic.
There are 5,640 triangles in the piece, and it took some 300 hours to create. “The overall response of the congregation has been wonderful, moving, and emotional,” says Buckley. “This piece is the most powerful piece of artwork I have created thus far.”
“Ebb and Flow” is on display at Congregation Ahavath Chesed, 8727 San Jose Blvd. For further information or to schedule a time to view the mural, contact Ellen Berson at the Temple, (904) 733-7078.