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 infiltration of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline through pristine wilderness. In July of 1986 Holt returned to Alaska to create the System Work Pipeline for a two-person exhibition with Michelle Stuart titled Alaskan Impressions at the Visual Art Center of Alaska in Anchorage.
Holt created the photo-series Alaskan Pines while traveling through Southcentral Alaska upon invitation from the Visual Arts Center of Alaska in Anchorage. In March of 1986 Holt visited the towns of Eklutna and Chitina, Alaska, where she created two photographic series: Alaskan Pines and Athabascan/Russian Orthodox Graveyard. As in the earlier photographic works Trail Markers(1969) and California Sun Signs (1972), in Alaskan Pines we see Holt communicate movement through space by focusing her lens on one repeating element of the landscape. The focus on small pines in these images also calls to mind Holt's 1975 film Pine Barrens and the resulting photo-composite "Pine Barrens: Trees," made from film stills of isolated pines. Returning to Alaska in July after traveling and observing the landscape, Holt chose to create the System Work Pipeline in response to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.