Alberto Penagos is a 26-year-old Mexican painter who never formally studied art, but enjoyed drawing since early childhood. In 2007, after working with Mexican painter Rafael Cauduro on a mural commissioned by Mexico's Supreme Court, Penagos' art became much more politically and socially charged.
Troubled by the femicides in Ciudad Juárez and the State of Mexico, Penagos turned his paint brush to the topic of violence against women.
"Violence against women knows no nationality, skin color, or religion," said Penagos, who this week inaugurated an exhibition on the topic in Cuernavaca. "My intention is to show that this can happen to anyone, regardless of where you are in the world."
Here are some of Penago's works on exhibit in the Museum of the City of Cuernavaca. The exhibit runs through May.
"It's about sex trafficking and forced prostitution," Penagos told Fusion. "Most of these women are anonymous; they don't show their faces and don't go to the police. Sometimes they have to show two faces because they are being forced to or they do it out of conviction."
"The motifs in this painting involve maternity and innocence. The woman holding a doll represents the situation that awaits a child who is born into a violent family environment."
Cilicium is a Latin word that describes a religious ornament or device worn to cause pain and serve as penance. "To me this painting is about repression," said Penagos, "It's also representative of the killings of women in Ciudad Juarez."
Harassment is "the violence that's allowed" in our society, Penagos said. The artist said violence is everything from catcalling women on the street to leering at them in a sexual manner.
Tzompanpli was an ancient practice in Pre-Hispanic Mexico that involved decapitating people after human sacrifice, then displaying the heads on a public altar.
In this painting Penagos compares Tzompanpli to the femicides in Ciudad Juarez. "They were sacrificed; these are the victims that we have thrown away," the artist said.
Penagos said he included the famous painting by renowned street artist Banksy to represent fading hope. "The heart-shaped balloon is flying away, just as our hope does when we learn that more women have disappeared."
Penagos' paintings are on wood made to resemble marble urns. The frames are mounted on metal made to resemble the U.S.-Mexico border fence through Ciudad Juarez.
The artist also put sand and women's shoes on the floor in front of these paintings to recreate the familiar sight often found at these gruesome crime scenes.