When the average person sees someone dressed from head to toe in the Army combat uniform, his or her first impression is typically “Soldier.” However, this is not always what defines the person in uniform. There is often something much deeper brewing beyond the maroon beret and the rank. Perhaps the individual wearing the ACU defines the uniform more than the uniform defines the individual.
This is exactly what one would discover during a visit to the headquarters of 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. Inside this building, past the double doors and past the busy paratroopers at the staff duty desk, hangs a unique and special painting that depicts jellyfish falling from the sky out of airplanes that fly off into the distance.
This particular piece of artwork is a new addition to the headquarters. Its creator is a shy, but extremely talented paratrooper assigned to Company C, 3rd BSTB, named Spc. Mia Klavon.
Art: a short, three letter word that carries a multitude of meanings to a variety of cultures and societies. For Klavon, “Art is my best friend and my worst enemy, but at the same time, it doesn’t need to be perfect, someone out there will always enjoy it.”
The truth of this statement became evident when Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew McCoy of 3rd BSTB discovered a conceptual drawing of jellyfish in the sky in Klavon’s barracks room during a health and welfare inspection.
“I had the drawing sitting on my dresser and when he saw it, he wanted it,” Klavon said. “I promised to finish the concept and give him a better one. Now they both hang in the battalion.”
Klavon was born and raised in Detroit. She studied and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from the Kendall College of Art and Design. Following her undergraduate studies, she went on to obtain her Masters of Art at Eastern Michigan University with a concentration in arts administration.
“I always loved art. As a child, I remember being able to color within the lines and how good that felt,” Klavon said.
Once she joined the Army, she said she originally thought, that the paint brushes would be stored away for the rest of enlistment. However, Klavon quickly discovered that this was not necessarily true.
During basic combat training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Klavon designed the platoon T-shirts and created two murals for the walls.
Klavon’s most recognized piece, known as the “Jelly-Troopers” carries deep sub contextual ideologies that extend past just jellyfish in the sky.
“The painting is an abstract representation of a sunset combat jump over the mountains in Afghanistan with multiple silhouetted C-130s in the distance dropping jellyfish to sting the enemy,” said Klavon.
In the upper right corner of the painting sits the famous All-American “AA”. However, there is a bit of a twist on the renowned AA.
Klavon intends to paint more Army-related material in the future. “Everything has been inspiring me lately. Airplanes, lightweight motor transport vehicles, signal equipment and the people I work with,” said Klavon.
Her artistic abilities can be seen not just in the “Jelly-Troopers” piece, but in her past works as well. She describes her style as pop surrealism, which is a happy medium between technical skill and imagination. You can think outside the box, but not so out of the box where everything becomes abstract. Her pop surrealist tone is clearly visible in her previous paintings of the ice woman, the blue lady and girl with melting fingertips.
Much like a white canvas covered in paint, sometimes a little digging and removal of the layers can reveal something beautiful and unique hidden deep within the strokes of the paintbrush. This directly correlates to the kinds of talent that can be found if a little digging is done within the ranks of the paratroopers beside us.