10 Billion Barrels of Crude Oil

Nancy Holt
Ink on paper
14 x 8 1/2 in. (35.6 x 21.6 cm)

Holt visited Alaska in March of 1986 upon invitation from the Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage, who hoped she might create a work of art in celebration of the region’s beauty. Holt was instead struck by the Trans-Alaskan pipeline, which she depicts in this drawing. The facts and figures of the pipeline’s operation snake along the oil’s route; to read them one must shift positions, a physical disturbance that accentuates the discomfort of the information itself.

This work speaks to Holt's earlier concrete poems concerned with mapping like Hometownwhile also relating to the System Works like Sole Source and Electrical System that were a primary focus for Holt in the '80s. In July of 1986 Holt returned to Alaska to create the System Work Pipeline at the Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage.


Writing by the Artist


Nancy Holt

In March 1986, I visited Alaska under the auspices of the Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage, an institution partly endowed by the oil companies in Alaska.

The Visual Arts Center invited me there to experience the vast Alaskan Environment, anticipating that the experience would generate an idea for an artwork. For ten days I roamed the land looking at various sites, including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In July I returned to Alaska and constructed a work, which evolved from the strongest of my main initial impressions of that place.

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