Painting, photography, music all part of Bellingham woman's life


9 13 Prime Chaikin

Bellingham artist Ann Chaikin with some of her work, July 1, 2013.


Name: Ann Chaikin.

Age: 70.

Hometown: Chaikin was born in Pasadena, Calif., but spent most of her childhood in the Bay Area.

Family: Chaikin's mother was a teacher; her father was Edwin McMillan, a nuclear physicist and 1951 Nobel laureate.

Ann met her current husband, Arvin, in the mid-'70s in New York's Hudson Valley. They moved to Bellingham in 1990 after he retired. Ann has a son, Jason, from her first marriage, and Arvin has two daughters, Lynda and Helena.

The Chaikins live near Big Rock Garden Park with their two cats, Duma (Swahili for cheetah) and Mehitabel (from the Archy and Mehitabel columns by Don Marquis).

Education and work: Ann graduated from Pomona College in 1964 with a degree in English. She married and moved to the East Coast, where she worked as a computer programmer and programming teacher.

From 1967 to 1990 Ann worked for IBM, both in New York and California. She didn't expect to go into computer programming, but gave it a shot after placing well on an exam designed to tell people what they might excel at.

Musically minded: Chaikin has made music a large part of her life, singing in local choirs everywhere she moved. She sang locally in Whatcom Chorale, Berkeley Chamber Chorale and the Bellingham Festival of Music Chorus.

Chaikin says she quit singing at 64 because, having sung next to high sopranos who had started to lose their range, she decided, "If I ever start to sound anything like that, I'm out of there."

She is still involved with Bellingham Music Club, where she serves as webmaster and site photographer.

Photography, too: Chaikin started to pursue photography at the age of 14 after her dad gave her a Kodak Retina camera.

When the Chaikins moved to Bellingham, she worked at Whatcom Community College in the registration office and learning center. She became an unofficial photographer there, and donated several photographs for use in brochures and as wall art.

"There came a time when I got tired of film," Chaikin says. "But shortly after that digital came out, and I took to that like a duck to water."

Hummingbirds: One of Chaikin's most moving photographic experiences occurred at Big Rock Garden Park. After a Mother's Day art show, someone asked her if she'd seen a hummingbird nest there.

"It's not something you see every day," she says.

Chaikin only had a point-and-shoot camera with her, but she went back the next day, and the next, and the day after that, and for a month she documented the mother and her young hummingbird, from the day the chick hatched to the time it was grown.

"Her beak was all the way in the nest, and I realized there was a baby bird," Chaikin says. "I don't know why they don't impale their infinitesimally small babies."

A compilation of the shoot is available by searching "Hummingbirds at Big Rock Garden" at

Painter, too: Travelling to Chaikin's home studio is akin to walking into a secret lair in a movie. Walk through a normal hallway and into a seemingly normal bathroom, and most visitors might never think that with a simple tug on the shower curtain they would find a door tucked away where the tub should be. It leads to a room the Chaikins added on for a hot tub, but now serves as Ann's private painting area.

While at WCC, Ann earned an associate's degree in graphic design. One of the requirements was an art class. Chaikin says she took to oil painting, partly because it reminded her of her childhood art ventures with her brother, and partly because it gave her room to experiment.

She started regularly attending a weekly open studio workshop at the Trish Harding School of Art at Studio UFO in 2006. She still frequents the open studio, working to improve and critique her work with others, and is part of a close-knit group of women that formed there.

Chaikin has been featured in a variety of shows in the area. Most recently, her series "Close to Home," which features subjects found within a short distance of Chaikin's house, was shown at Allied Arts and at Hotel Bellwether. Her series, "Nature in the Balance," was also recently featured at Whatcom Museum.

Her paintings are usually based on real subjects, with an aspect of impressionism in her work.

"I don't paint hard lines often," she says. "I like to be free."


To see some of Ann Chaikin's work, go to

Samantha Wohlfeil is a freelance writer in Bellingham.

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