Gallery and Restaurant
By Jean Cunningham
Aydin Dincer is a wonderfully stubborn guy wanting to do things his way, and it shows beautifully in both his art and his food. Aydin owns and operates Prairie Joe’s restaurant in Evanston, a unique place to enjoy a feast with both your stomach and your eyes. There is a set menu as well as a daily special created by Aydin which reflects his food history and creativity. And there is a gallery of Aydin’s art spread throughout the restaurant which enables some unique customer experiences. Just a week ago, 9 friends came in to celebrate a couple’s wedding anniversary. They ate and then had the lucky couple tour the art gallery. The couple selected one of Aydin’s paintings and the other seven shared the cost of the painting and food bill! Sometimes, a child will select one of Aydin’s mini paintings (including easel) to give to her mom for her birthday.
When he gets home from the restaurant, Aydin usually heads up to his attic to his studio, a messy, active and often sunny place where his paints, easel, and stool are ready to go. Arriving in the attic stimulates his creativity. There isn’t much organization so a meaningful component when he paints is finding the right brush and color in the mishmash of his art table. The smell of turpentine adds to the otherworldliness of the space!
An Aydin Dincer oil painting typically reflects one of two subjects. He paints a lot of emotion laden self-portraits. He also creates landscapes with dark, foreboding skies, a coming storm, or desolation and others with artifacts from the past: old fences, abandoned farm equipment, empty barns, etc. Images of life left behind.
The inspiration for Aydin’s landscapes comes from his annual trip to the southwest. His wife, Diane, fixes food for his two-week getaway which he eats twice a day. He lives in a tent pitched wherever he can find an available spot. He takes leisurely hikes and bike treks usually to nowhere in particular. “Just putzing around.” One year he thought his car was smelling , but then realized it was him, so now he makes sure to freshen up in a stream periodically.
The photographs and mental recollection from these trips become the basis for his landscapes. Using his vivid imagination, Aydin morphs the images from reality to inspired artistry as he continually returns to the feeling of desolation and even fear.
Aydin is prolific, creating around 5 paintings a week. He schedules in time, maybe 2-5pm, but occasionally will pop upstairs for just a minute or two—which explains why he considers most of his wardrobe painting clothes, as the paint finds its way everywhere! While Aydin traditionally has worked on one piece at a time from start to finish, recently, he has been returning to some of his prior work and realizes in true artist style that some were not finished at all. He is currently finishing them or as he puts it, “I’m Photoshopping via oil!”
Aydin lives in Chicago and works and sells his art in Evanston. He paints to sell and cooks to sell. He does occasionally hold onto a piece for a while to fully enjoy it before it moves on. To buy Aydin’s paintings, you can purchase those you see on his Facebook or Instagram page. But the great majority of his work is at Prairie Joe’s. He gets great satisfaction in selling his art, and there are even several collectors of his work.
Aydin notes “Painting is hard; not easy. I do not relax when I paint but concentrate on the challenge. If you can’t execute your concept, it is depressing. So I put a lot into it.”
Prairie Joe’s 1921 Central St. Evanston
Jean Cunningham is retired after a career in business management and finance. She has written three books and authored many articles in her field, was a speaker at conferences, and taught at the university level. While traveling for business she began painting and drawing for relaxation and collecting art. She and her husband have lived in Evanston for 11 years and are avid walkers of the town and lakeside. She has a BS from Indiana University and an MBA from Northeastern University.