Margarita Moreno’s artist book El Cocodrilo de Humboldt (Park), 2021 is a reticulating visual journey of associations—metaphors, puns, coincidences, and similarities converge to create a remarkably rich and complex non-linear narrative of place, cultural identity, and autobiography. Through her unique ability to thread disparate references into fantastical stories, Moreno has us consider kinship as not only connectivity through space, time, and analogy, but also kinship as a matter of mixing and recombination—conceptual and physical alike. Its accordion fold materializes the layering that Moreno achieves throughout the book, alive with vibrant color and thick with implications. Her Artist’s Reflection (below) unpacks countless folds/sides of meaning that she pursues through the pages of her work. — AY
I am a Colombian international student. When I arrived in Chicago in July of 2019, I moved to Humboldt Park, a portoriquean/Latin American neighborhood. At that time, there was news about “Chance the Snapper,” an alligator living in the Humboldt Park Lagoon. First seen July 9 and captured July 17, the alligator was named after Chance the Rapper, a Chicago-based hip-hop artist. It seems the alligator was owned by someone who left it there, to be found. Does the “natural” include all of our relationship with animals? Are we consumers or are we companions? The idea of owning a pet and then endowing them with human characteristics, such as a nickname, made me wonder about the relation between the alligator and their previous owner. — MM
Humboldt Park was named after Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist, explorer, and scientist. He traveled through the Americas at the beginning of the 19th century and wrote about nature, geography, fauna, and flora in the Americas, especially Latin America. Humboldt was among the first modern scientists who thought of nature as a whole, a net of relations between the living and the non-living, spaces and time; his work served as the precursor to the concept of interconnectivity, nature as a system that evolves other systems and environments. This was a time when European intellectuals saw America (the continent) as the “other,” something radically different. I sketched the alligator and some things around Humboldt Park. With these drawings and my walks, I wondered why the categories that I mentioned earlier are still used today to describe us within America (the continent) itself. I wondered about the authority that people born in the USA assume when they call themselves “American.” What happens if I say I am American, too? Would I be less American? Or would I be “American but…” — MM
In the time I’ve lived in the United States, I realized how I went from being a Colombian person to being a racialized body, something that I wasn’t in my own context. The alligator is an animal that lives between two environments at the same time, in the water and outside the water—it is symbolic for me of the “mestizo,” a term historically used in Spanish America that refers to a person of combined European and Indigenous blood, regardless of where they are born. This book is a compilation of drawings, notes, thoughts, information, photos, tickets, receipts, and newspaper clippings that make up a concept map—an autobiographical and metaphorical relationship between me and the alligator. Putting us both in a mis-placement, I inquire into our relationship with nature, race, and history, as well as how all of these categories are connected. — MM
About Margarita Moreno
I am a Colombian artist based in Chicago, who focuses on reflecting on the immediate environment: the place that human beings occupy in the universe. In the relationship between the human and the nonhuman, inhabiting becomes a direct correspondence between these two. This is why these thoughts have emerged in common places: a classroom, a park, a road, a bed, a room, the landscape seen through a window. Although drawing is my first language, my works are mix-media and include sculpture, printmaking, weaving, and artist books. I am editor and co-founder of Tormenta Ediciones and La Magdalena Magazine, and I am currently an MFA student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.