Saint Javelin

An original Saint Javelin painting by Chris Shaw is currently on exhibit through February 2023 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO, USA.

From the exhibit:

“This popular and moving contemporary painting became an online phenomenon in March 2022 as a symbol for the Ukrainian resistance movement. Mass production and public consumption of images of Christian saints in the environment of war began in WWI, and this unique temporary exhibition will display Saint Javelin in the context of historical prints from the National WWI Museum and Memorial’s collection.”  

More info:

Learn more about Saint Javelin, and religious icons in war HERE .

From the artist: 

“My first painting of Sant Javelin was large and on canvas, I felt limited with some materials I was able to use, and also felt that I wanted to create the image at a more intimate size. I decided to create an icon on wood, and to create something that was both image and object.  Perhaps as an artist’s reaction to Saint Javelin’s viral propagation as a digital image – I wanted the real-world art to be textured, dimensional, and used special colors with rich gold leaf, all things that cant be reproduced digitally or in print.  The icon was painted over two months, completed in late June 2022.

“It’s a honor to have Saint Javelin on exhibit at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, I love that she can be seen by so many people and that the art continues to provoke discussion.”   – Chris Shaw

Special thanks to Patricia Cecil and the National WWI Museum and Memorial for facilitation of this exhibit, and Christian Borys for his generous loan of the art.

Saint Javelin

18” x 24” Acrylic with glass on board, gold and metal leaf, on wood panel


Social media photos: @GhostIn_TheCity via Twitter


Saint Javelin Painting by Chris Shaw

On April 3, 2022, in Art, Paintings, Video, by Chris Shaw
Saint Javelin by Chris Shaw, 2022

When Saint Javelin became a viral meme in February 2022 one of the first things I did was to remake the image by my own hand.  Perhaps it was a futile attempt to reclaim my art from the internet somehow, or maybe it was just that the first viral alteration was a bit sloppy in places.  St. Javelin has since circled the globe both digitally and physically printed. and continues to show up in some amazing places, it’s been fascinating to watch and experience.  (See my previous posts on St. Javelin and her origin as Madonna Kalashnikov)

As the original artist, I wanted to make my “official” Saint Javelin painting be something that would stand out from anything printed or digital, but not vary too far from the original form.  With a pure cadmium green base, I used subtle glazing to build up deep transparent tones in the robes.  Multiple thick layers of black for line art are used to bring texture around smoothly painted areas of color.  The background is gold leaf over a red base, then buffed and varnished like a traditional icon.  

The Saint Javelin painting is 30” x 40”, acrylic and metal leaf on canvas, completed in March 2022.

Please inquire for info on this artwork or to commission your own custom Icon.

Start to finish in a minute and a half (no sound).

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.