Nice Work! #5 Doug McCune’s “Under the Surface”

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Artist: Doug McCune

Title: “Under the Surface”

Medium: Lasercut wood

Gallery: Diode

Show: Deviant Cartography, inaugural solo exhibition, April 2015 by appointment

The Artist On The Work:

“San Francisco is presented as a wooden box, seemingly sleek and clean. You’re invited to open the box to see what’s under the surface, revealing a map of sex offender hotspots. This map reminds us of the often invisible aspects of our cities we either can’t see or choose to ignore.”


The Critic’s Experience:

Software engineer by trade, data artist by practice, Doug McCune works with the raw layers of information that exist behind what is commonly seen.

In his data visualization show, Deviant Cartography, McCune focuses predominantly on Portland and San Francisco crime statistics, rendering three-dimensional maps out of data sets spanning drunk driving through prostitution. While many of the pieces in the show invite a debate about the significance of crime maps—do hot spots indicate high concentrations of criminal activity or areas of elevated enforcement?—“Under the Surface” was the piece that I found most unsettling.


“Under the Surface” greets the viewer as a stately, high-gloss wooden box in the shape of San Francisco. It looks like something you’d find on a coffee table between two high-backed chairs in the private library of a third-generation coal magnate. Maybe there are some Cohibas in there? No, no cigars. Pull off the lid, and the locations of San Francisco’s sex offenders are described in reverse-topographical lasercut layers of wood.


The data-sharp wooden box and the destructive sexual crimes it illustrates combine for a nauseating contrast—tidy renderings of chaotic realities—drawing me in with form and appearance and pushing me away once that visual appeal segues into the significance of the map.

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