Two unwelcome guests live in Tweed Meyer’s house: grief and loss. They have been her constant companions for nearly two years.
On Jan. 5, 2022, Tweed’s mother, Norma, died there at age 92. Sixteen days later Tweed’s 42-year-old daughter, Willow, passed away unexpectedly from an undiagnosed cardiac disease on the morning of Norma’s memorial service.
Tweed is a well-known artist on the Key Peninsula and beyond. Her most visible works for peninsula residents are the murals at the Key Center Corral and Minter Creek Elementary School. Her large, vibrant landscape and still-life paintings adorn many homes, businesses and school hallways on the KP. She has had exhibitions at the Sydney Gallery in Port Orchard, and in galleries in Friday Harbor and Lake Quinault, and participated in the Centrum Jazz Festival in Port Townsend for five years as a live-action painter. She still regularly attends events and music venues to sketch and paint the moment and frequently donates her paintings to local nonprofits such as The Mustard Seed Project and the KP Civic Center.
Tweed grew up on Wollochet Bay, though many of her early years were spent in the family cabin in the Hoh River forest. It was an ideal childhood, with parents who encouraged exploration, experience and expression.
She raised three children, became a pastry chef, tried firefighting school, and organic gardening, and graduated from the Northwest College of Art and Design in Poulsbo in 1995.
“I did not have a husband, I had the community,” Tweed said. “It’s all about meeting our humanness. I’ve always admitted my humanness.”
Tweed spent most of her recent years living and working alongside her mother, Norma, also an artist. “We would spend all winter talking about Monet. We loved the Impressionists; they were the ones going out in nature.”
En plein air painting, literally “painting outdoors,” is her love, and she was once often seen with her paints and easel set up alongside a bay, a vista, or a stand of trees, capturing a scene from a roadside outlook.
She said an important part of her early adult years was spent living in the Hoh region, absorbing raw nature firsthand. “I wanted to find out about life ... in deep experiences with nature.” Her portraits of giant, unmanageable trees and roving landscapes are expressions of that immersion in the natural world.
“I’m a poet, writer, cook, and artist, and gardener. I can see myself in all these things. Anyone who sees my art knows ‘It’s a Tweed,' ” she said.
But now Tweed has entered a more difficult process in life, learning to recover and reconcile two major losses. This after she also suffered the death of her son, Justin, at age 21, some years ago.
In typical Tweed fashion, she is open about her struggles. “Now is the time for wisdom, not strength.”
And the focus of her current work reflects that sentiment. She’s not going out much these days.
“Painting for me now is such a pleasure. Learning oil painting takes a lifetime. It’s flowing in me now because I am not struggling.”
Her trademark wild, dreamlike and sometimes enormous expressions of nature (one painting is 16 feet tall) have given way to an expression of the changes that bereavement has brought. Looking inward, making peace with loss, and working to reconcile the transformation of her inner landscape has brought her to the discovery of smaller and brighter works. “I’m not doing landscape now, just simple things, there’s an immediacy to it,” she said of her new paintings of fruits and flowers, colorful with the recognizable Tweed glow, but simply done.
“There is an immediacy to this grief,” she said. “I’ve been hit. I can speak my truth (and) find a way out that contains worth and meaning. Art is my saving grace.”
Tweed has another avenue in her healing process, one that involves her daughter Willow.
In March 2014, Tweed and Willow went to the Tacoma library to make a recording about Tweed’s life, with Willow as interviewer for the national nonprofit StoryCorps, a sprawling effort to preserve and share the stories of Americans from all walks of life. Tweed listens to this recording often. She takes comfort and inspiration from Willow’s voice and laughter. As a result, Tweed is in the planning stages of making a documentary, using the interview as a foundation for a script.
The work of processing grief and loss takes many paths, not always in a linear way. People come to terms with bereavement over time and become reconciled to loss. It is a process that cannot be hurried or prescribed. Once past the initial trauma of loss, many people find comfort in grief groups, journaling, or physical exertion, for example.
Tweed is aware of her gift for extraordinary transparency, and her porous transactions between pain and pleasure. She balances her openness with times of withdrawal. “I trust myself that I know what I’m doing,” she said.
“Allow in subconscious thoughts and allow things to come out.”
Tweed’s Key Peninsula studio is open by appointment via “Tweed’s Art” on Facebook.
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