Randy Soileau’s yard is part art gallery, part op-ed page these days.
Amid several flower and vegetable gardens on his ⅔-acre Autumn Avenue lot, the 65-year-old Dover-Foxcroft man is displaying nearly 35 portraits he has painted during the last few years.
Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Superman and Bono are just a few of the celebrities featured on 4-by-5-foot pieces of plywood. Each at one time was partnered with a separate plywood panel on which Soileau painted his thoughts about various issues around town.
“Let’s just say I’m an advocate for the working-class man,” Soileau said. “I’m trying my best to make change.”
Most of those messages are not part of the current display — at least in part because of space considerations. But what remains is a show of artwork unique not only for its variety but also for its setting on the meticulously maintained lot.
“I just look for space available,” Soileau said. “After I put out a painting or two, I’ll step out by the road and look for good locations to fill in a spot here and there. I try to make everything visible from the road so when people go by they can go by slowly and be able to see it all, and that one painting doesn’t hide another.”
The retired industrial engineer said he has dabbled in drawing since he was a kid, but not until he became more politically motivated did he begin painting portraits.
“Albert Einstein was the first one I painted,” he said. “I did charcoal and pencil and pen and ink and things like that before, but that was the first time I painted.”
The third-generation Dover-Foxcroft resident, who lives in and is renovating the home his grandfather built during the 1930s, says his displays have prompted plenty of feedback by those who drive or walk by his yard.
“I talked with a civics teacher who walked by here and he complimented me on it,” Soileau said. “He said he uses my examples as lessons in his civics classes because I’m using the First Amendment. He called it a unique and ingenious way of getting my points across.”
While space in the yard is getting tight, Soileau has no intention of cutting back on his painting pace.
“I’ve got a list a mile long of different paintings to do — years and years of paintings. I know I’ve got to have probably 50 or 60 different ones lined up,” he said. “It depends on how much time I have. I could probably turn out one a week if I wanted to and devoted my time to it, but I only do it when I have free time and when I’ve got the energy to paint.”
Soileau usually keeps a couple of portraits and messages up at a given time throughout the year — one on posts at the upper edge of the yard facing the street and the second on the side of a tool shed — but summer offers an extended period of time for him to display the breadth of his artwork.
“I usually keep them up for two, three or four weeks in the summer,” he said. “It depends on the weather and how much ambition I’ve got, because every year there’s a few more paintings and every year I’m another year older.”