Madonna Kalashnikov painting by Chris Shaw, 2012

When I completed my painting “Madonna Kalashnikov” in 2012, I immediately loved her.  From the very first sketch she also seemed to have a life of her own.

The initial idea for the image was conceived during the post 9/11 era.  I have always juxtaposed and mixed concepts about culture and religion into my icons, and had long been intrigued at how weapons can be perceived as both evil and good – especially if they are doing God’s work.  The concept was brought a bit further in another painting I made around the same time, “Madonna of the Suicide Vest”.

Weapons have been a part of religious art forever of course, but instead of swords and spears I thought, why not something modern?  There’s probably no more iconic weapon than the AK-47 Kalashnikov, both visually, and in its history.  At the time AK-47’s seemed to be everywhere, the AK was both the official weapon of conservative Islamic terrorists, and a symbol of freedom and democracy during the Arab Spring.  This is exactly the type of intertwining of opposing ideas that I love to explore.  Because the Kalashnikov is a Russian rifle, I chose an Eastern Orthodox theme for the icon and painted it.  

The painting itself is acrylic on canvas, 30” x 40”.  The figure is painted smooth with high gloss line-work, the Kalashnikov is made of gold leaf.  Contrasting the smooth figure, the background is a matte black textured impasto created with a palette knife. The color of her robes is a saturated “Spring Green” shaded with blue.   Like all my icons, I constructed her root design using golden proportions and sacred geometry.  I first exhibited Madonna Kalashnikov at Varnish Gallery (2012), then at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2013).  She received plenty of attention but also came back unsold after both exhibits, I think she was a bit too subversive for the times. I eventually sold her directly out of the studio. 

The Madonna Kalashnikov exists as a painting that hangs on a wall, but because of the internet her digital alter-ego has led a very different life. 

I can’t say she was ever a meme or went viral after her debut, but the image of Madonna Kalashnikov from my website got shared around.  I’d look it up occasionally and typically got a kick out of where she ended up, eventually she was getting all over the place.  Unfortunately that also meant unauthorized prints and merchandise started showing up too, ever since it’s been extremely labor intensive trying to keep people from printing her on shirts or other items to sell.  Bootleg Madonna Kalashnikov merchandise has been popular in East Europe, which isn’t surprising.  Less frustrating are the tattoos, there’s a lot of great Madonna Kalashnikov tattoos, I always enjoy seeing them.

In 2015, apparently Madonna Kalashnikov was conscripted by the Ukrainian Army and became a morale patch.  Her image began to show up on other military patches in Ukraine and East Europe too.  As an art image made as a comment on the AK-47’s iconic symbology, it was bewildering that Madonna Kalashnikov was co-opted to become a symbol itself.  

The story continues, in 2018 someone in Ukraine altered an image of the Madonna Kalashnikov painting.  She now held a Javelin missile launcher and was posted on twitter, shortly after she was named, “Saint Javelin”.  Not many people saw it then, I didn’t.  However, in 2022 amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the St.Javelin version of Madonna Kalashnikov went hyper-viral, eventually becoming the face of the conflict and a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia.  (See post: Saint Javelin)

As the artist who made the root image and the icon’s character, it’s truly amazing.  As a longtime supporter of Ukraine it’s an unbelievable honor to have an image organically adopted this way.  That said, there’s mixed feelings about losing all control of one’s art, and that art becoming a symbol of a conflict. Ironically, to make peace with it, I feel better knowing that she’s become an icon of hope, freedom, and good.  


History of the St. Javelin meme at KnowYourMeme

Madonna Kalashnikov (2012)

Madonna Kalashnikov (2013)

Saint Javelin Post

Please inquire to commission your own custom Madonna Kalashnikov!

Any printed reproductions of Madonna Kalashnikov for sale are unauthorized.



When the infamous Zoltron asked me if I wanted to make a Primus poster this season and Green Elvis was mentioned there was no way I could say no.  It was 24 years ago in 1994 when I made my first Green Elvis rock poster …for Primus at the Fillmore.  It’s always been one of my favorite posters, complete with Day-Glo inks – if Green Elvis was going to make a comeback Day-Glo had to be included.  Green Elvis is again portrayed as a classic Christian icon, but in this new version I got in pretty deep with the classic geometry and symbols which is more related to my recent artwork and icons.  Its a nice hybrid of my old and new art.

I was having a great time making the image, I knew immediately it had to be a special print too.  I needed metallic, fluorescent, and non-fluorescent inks and and some unique printing & color know-how to make this poster – I called Chuck Sperry, he’s the master of that recipe, he’s printed Green Elvis before, and we’re old friends.  I really need to thank Chuck here.  He accepted the project and squeezed it into his crazy schedule, he also turned it up to “11” with the technique – meaning these are some really beautiful prints.  We had a blast making the posters over a few days, the inks and color are perfect – sizzling but scaled back fluorescents, the famous hi-test Hangar 18 silver, and a slightly transparent black.   A huge thank you to Primus, Zoltron, and again, Chuck Sperry for making this poster possible.

This poster looks awesome in blacklight!



The Green Elvis posters will be released at the Primus concert on June 2, 2018 at Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore, Maryland.  #P297 in the Primus series. 

I will release a limited amount of standard edition posters as well as variants HERE at time to be announced shortly.  

Edition info and photos below.




Primus at Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore, MD

June 2, 2018






18” x 24”

6 color Screenprint on Cougar stock

Edition of 250

Signed and Numbered – Sold Out – Thank You!





18” x 24”

5 colors on Metallic Gold stock (minus yellow plate)

Edition of 16

Signed and Numbered – Sold Out – Thank You




18” x 24”

6 colors on Iridescent Pearl stock

Edition of 20

Signed and Numbered – Sold Out – Thank You





18” x 24”

6 colors on Holographic Foil

Edition of 12

Signed and Numbered – Sold Out – Thank You.




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Four color Surrealistic Summer Solstice Jam silkscreen event poster by Alexandra Fischer, Chris Shaw, & Gary Houston! This was created for the Surrealistic Summer Solstice Jam on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

This special event combined the music of 1967 with an epic projected light art installation by Illuminate and Obscura Digital on the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers! Poster M990 in the Moonalice Poster series.

Edition Details

17″ x 27″
4 Color Screen Print
Edition of 175
Signed & Numbered

Being released online at

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