Saint Javelin artwork by Chris Shaw

I woke up a couple weeks ago to find an image of “Saint Javelin” going viral all over the internet as a meme.  St. Javelin is a digital alteration of my 2012 painting, “Madonna Kalashnikov”.   

It’s been a humbling experience to watch as the Ukrainian people adopted the Saint Javelin image as an icon of resistance against the Russian invasion and to see it transform into a global symbol of support for Ukraine.  Worldwide, media has been calling her a’ Symbol of Resistance’ or the ‘Face of the Conflict’ .  As the artist who drew that face, I’ve been in awestruck to see what has become of my art.

An image of my Madonna Kalashnikov painting had already made its way around the internet and into Ukraine and Eastern Europe some years ago. Madonna Kalashnikov has been a popular tattoo, used on military patches, and unfortunately, bootlegged onto all kinds of merchandise. (See my post Madonna Kalashnikov – 2022)

In 2018 someone in Ukraine altered an image of the Madonna Kalashnikov painting to make the figure hold a Javelin missile launcher and posted it on Twitter, she was named “Saint Javelin” shortly after.  That image didn’t really go anywhere until February 2022 when it appeared again amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and eventually went viral as “Saint Javelin the Protector of Ukraine”.

It seemed almost instantaneous, St. Javelin was printed on stickers, shirts, flags – everything.  Suddenly, hundreds of items and variations of the art appeared – dozens of pages of on Amazon and Etsy are now devoted to selling St Javelin stuff.   A Saint Javelin website selling stickers with the image was set up – the stickers themselves went viral – leading to more coverage in the media.  Currently, the St. Javelin stickers have raised over a million dollars to aid Ukraine.  

In the last week or so, the meme has not seemed to have slowed, just changed.  As that has happened, she’s spawned many different versions, theres a cool anime version, a Lego version, a 3-D printed version, and dozens of others.  St. Javelin has evolved from an image into a character, maybe even a real icon. 

Being the original artist, thats all pretty cool, but I also have mixed feelings.

As an artist who paints modern icons, designs political posters, and has a deep love of politics, media, and propaganda, the miraculous appearance of St. Javelin seems like a strange dream.  For people to organically adopt her as a real symbol of resistance and strength during an invasion is, again, very humbling.  For St. Javelin to become an image helping to aid relief and show solidarity with Ukraine is amazing.  Now that she is everywhere, I want her to do good.

On the other hand, it’s been frustrating to lose all control over my art.  Especially watching profiteers producing merchandise, for profit. When the internet steals your work, it’s important to try to take it back. I remade the art properly, creating an official ‘made by the artist’ version of Saint Javelin.  

I need to address that Saint Javelin has also come to symbolize many different things to different people.  Her use as a warmonger is deeply disturbing to me.  I don’t like that the Javelin missile system itself has been nicknamed “St. Javelin”, a viral Tweet nicknaming her “St. Raytheon” was on-point.  The St. Javelin image featured in the TikTok memes of missiles hitting targets garnering hundreds of millions of views makes me upset.  I’m abhorred by her use to cheer on an actual war.

At this point, I don’t know where Saint Javelin will end up, but I do hope she remains a symbol of freedom, strength, and good.  I’ll probably make a painting of her, then move on to the next thing.  Most, I hope St. Javelin will help Ukraine, and the money raised by those using the her image will make a positive difference to someone.  

LINKS:

History of the St. Javelin meme at KnowYourMeme

Madonna Kalashnikov (2012)

Madonna Kalashnikov (2013)

Madonna Kalashnikov (2022)

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One Response to SAINT JAVELIN ( Сент-Джавелін ) – Icon of Ukrainian Resistance

  1. […] Doobie Decibel System 3/17/20 Club Fox, Redwood, CA poster by Chris Shaw SAINT JAVELIN ( Сент-Джавелін ) – Icon of Ukrainian Resistance […]

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