John Wentz: Dystopian Landscape Paintings

By Cassie Rief in Featured Artists > Oil Paintings

Oil painter John Wentz’s interest in art began at the age of six upon discovering Batman and Spiderman comic books. The artist, who was born and raised in the Bay Area of San Francisco, has carried over his artistic talents as a muralist, billboard creator and freelance illustrator into something new. . . and a little bit grim.

His stark landscapes and dilapidated carnival scenes serve as a reminder of the destruction that war—or a potential apocalypse—may someday bring to the world. His futuristic paintings depict senses heightened by fear of the unseen and unknown.

The retro sign for Carney’s Corny Dogs restaurant may bring back delightful memories from childhood, until you look at the rest of the bleak oil painting below, entitled The Ever-Changing Spectrum of Light.


However bleak it may be, I particularly admire the delicate touch John used to paint the withering, brown plants and grimy paint fading from what used to be a colorful, inviting sign.

And, even as the world around these two children fades, they refuse to lose hope. Instead, they offer a kind gesture and comforting hand to one another, and we see that their childlike innocence and inner beauty cannot be lost, after all—even if an eerie, unnatural green glow is all that illuminates the desolate scene.

Into a Separate Place reminds me of one of those old-timey, sepia-colored photographs. Everything about this painting is ominous, from the respirators and stiff-handed arm of an unidentified person locked onto the bike to the hauntingly empty stare of the girl in the forefront of the painting.


Part of the gloom comes from the blood red and rust colored hues that further heighten the idea of danger and signify a lack of life and prosperity. Even John’s brushstrokes are like warning signs, as colors and lines scratch and scrape into one another harshly before getting lost in the depths of black shadow.

The title “Between Light and Shadow” perfectly sums up this last painting. It’s of John’s brightest paintings, and I thought it would make for a happier note to end on. In it, a rundown Ferris wheel hovers within a darkened background, and a man—illuminated—gestures toward sunnier, cheerier days ahead.


Darkness may lie all around the three figures in this painting, but their optimism for the future brings forth a light from within that cannot be dulled. It signifies that even in the midst of the most terrible actions or ordeals, the human spirit prevails to persevere another day.

These three paintings are all found in just one of John’s collections on his website, so be sure to head on over and view more of his unique work.


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