From the commercial vigor of the cities to private-public spaces, Mano Penalva is interested in the aesthetics of street life and the Brazilian cultural process—especially how the relationship between home and street influences our values and habits. His work includes appropriations, where he takes common objects from Brazilian culture and recontextualizes them, subverting the object's value and proposing new aesthetic groupings. Textiles such as raffia bags, embroidery and appliques play an important role in Penalva's work, reinforcing domesticity in contrast to the transitory and ephemeral aspect of the street.
The artist's work has been exhibited extensively throughout Brazil—particularly in São Paulo—and in 2017, Penalva was a resident artist at Pop Center in Brazil, as well as R.A.T. in Mexico.