Christie Green is a designer weaving the elegant and the edgy among land, art, ecology and people. Raised in Alaska, with a background in History from UC Berkeley and Landscape Architecture from the University of New Mexico, her award-winning projects educate and inspire people-place connection. Ms. Green founded Down to Earth, LLC in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1999 with the political intent to heighten awareness about and cultivate stewardship of: food cultivation and production systems; native plant and animal communities; and water and soil resources through intelligent design. After 11 years as a landscape professional specializing in edible landscapes, water harvesting and ecologically regenerative projects, Ms. Green returned to academia to earn her MLA in order to expand the scope and scale of her work. Graduate school catapulted her into what is now radicle, her design-build firm that combines landscape, art, ecology and activism, founded in 2014. radicle, (the botanical term for the first root that emerges from a seed once it has germinated) values and expresses the rooted and the new, that which is biologically fundamental and also wildly creative and generative.
Through radicle, Ms. Green grows beyond traditional confines of landscape architecture, beyond serving as decorator or reclamationist, and expands to synthesize design, activisism, education and collaboration. Ms. Green’s professional design practice includes award-winning low-income housing projects, demonstration gardens, recreational facilities and single-family homes that incorporate edible, medicinal and ethnobotanic landscapes along with wastewater, surface and rainwater harvesting and soil-boilding. Her practice bridges landscape architecture, art and science through residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute, working with other artists from around the world and with local youth to explore food and water rights through art. radicle has become a living canvas and experimentation lab where Ms. Green invites the public, peers, educators and local politicians to explore subjects such as “Consumption and Waste” through land art installations, short films, writing and educational workshops and presentations. Along with fashion designers, political satirists, chefs, soil scientists and artists, Ms. Green offers radicle as a place to broaden our definition, understanding and appreciation of landscape and food.
For me, food is the catalyst for change. It connects people to each other through ritual, story, celebration and sustenance. The flora and fauna, water and air of our eco-region are in our blood and bones.; we are not separate from place. Food, I believe, is our most intimate way of connecting to and caring for landscape and each other. Growing up in Alaska and farming during the summers with my grandfather on the west Texas plains, landscape was our source of work, food and social life. As a cultural history undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I investigated people-place connection and how each shapes the other. Seeking tangible expression of this interdependency so critical to the agricultural experiences of my youth, I began designing and implementing edible landscapes as political, ecological and cultural activism. My appreciation of and ability to generate my own sustenance embodies stewardship of natural resources, protests against corporate control of food supplies and food insecurity and fosters intimate connection to others and where I live.
At best, food is flavor, generosity, ritual, tradition, celebration and nourishment. At worst, it is political control, glamorous elitism, ecological toxification, genetic manipulation and financial greed. I explore opportunities to democratize sustenance, enliven human interaction with place and grow resilient ecological systems. Through edgy and elegant land art, sensory exhibits, short films and writing, my intimate relationship with the rooted, furred and feathered of New Mexico invites dialogue and new ways of seeing and revering our natural resources. I believe that intimate, sensory experiences inform the “a ha” moments that lead to new, more beneficial ways of thinking, believing and acting. In complement to my artful activism and professional endeavors, I hunt local wild game and grow heirloom fruits and vegetables, offering the harvest to others through curated suppers. Here, we gather to learn and share in the feast from butchering and processing, to preserving and experimenting with recipes. I share what I learn by hunting and cultivating in the local landscape with others through the biological and sensual exchange of sustenance.
As a Food Justice and Water Rights resident at SFAI, I allowed myself the freedom of artful, activist expression and was fully supported and celebrated by other artists and the SFAI staff. In addition to graduate school, my residency experiences have been the greatest catalysts for change in my professional and artistic endeavors. Surrounded by others whose artistic expression was local and global and whose media of expression were vast and unlimited, I was enabled to expand beyond the typical confines of the landscape architecture profession and begin to weave life-long interests and artistic pursuits into my expression and activism. I was not asked to explain, rationalize or quantify, but to join the community of SFAI artists committed to reflecting on and inviting inquiry into universal themes of food and water, both of which have been critical informants to my life’s work.
While at SFAI, I met multiple artists from other states and countries and learned about their work through formal and informal gatherings. We joined at my home in Santa Fe and in the New Mexico landscape to explore food and water issues firsthand, which deepened our connection to each other and to the residency themes. We reached out to local schools and collaborated as educators, facilitating educational, art-based workshops for junior high and high school students. Additionally, we participated in local radio show conversations and national dialogues about food and water. While at SFAI, I had the privilege of meeting directors and curators of national art foundations and museums. As an SFAI 140 participant, I was thrilled by the challenge of distilling my work into its most salient and important features, sharing my interests and projects in a new way. The forms of art through which I explore and express continue to grow and deepen as a result of my time at SFAI. Interactive land art, experiential food gatherings, short films, photography and writing are now part of my palette. Through SFAI, I more easily imagine and embody my values and beliefs about food, water, landscape and art in my personal and professional life.