Artist Wears Bikini in the New York Subway in 100 Day Performance Piece

She also jumped out of a plane, and held a snake.

Michelle Poler face her fear of judgment. Photo: courtesy Michelle Poler.
Michelle Poler face her fear of judgment. Photo: courtesy Michelle Poler.

Michelle Poler has done a lot of things in the name of performance art the past few months: she’s held a tarantula, quit her job, jumped out of a plane, taught a Zumba class, and posed for a nude figure drawing class.

What do all these activities have in common? To do all of them, the master’s candidate has had to face the fears that have defined her life since childhood. Is she possibly gutsier than Milo Moiré, the nude performance artist who was arrested in Paris and turned away from Art Basel, only to strike again?

Michelle Poler's many fears. Photo: Michelle Poler.

Michelle Poler’s many fears.
Photo: Michelle Poler.

The piece is Poler’s response to the 100 Days Project, an assignment from Debbie Millman, co-founder and head of the School of Visual Arts Masters Degree in Branding program in New York, where Poler is currently enrolled.

Students have to spend 100 days doing the same thing over and over again, a task that is broadly interpreted.

“I committed to challenge myself and do something truly meaningful that could potentially change my life by the end of the 100 days,” explained Poler to the Creators Project. “While others did things like one doodle a day, one invention a day, or learning one guitar chord a day, I decided to face one fear a day, pushing myself to get outside of my comfort zone and live life to the fullest.”

Michelle Poler poses nude for a figure drawing class. Photo: courtesy Michelle Poler.

Michelle Poler poses nude for a figure drawing class.
Photo: courtesy Michelle Poler.

The 100 Days Without Fear project has seen Poler, a 26-year-old art director, ride a mechanical bull, paint a nude gentleman to confront her fear of awkward situations, change a diaper, and lie on a blanket in her bikini in the subway to overcome her fear of judgment.

On day 77, Poler found herself posing for a nude figure drawing class at the New York Academy of Art. At first, she was uncomfortable exposing her body to the scrutiny of the art students. As the class went on, however, Poler came to realize “it wasn’t about me; it was all about creating beautiful drawings no matter the model or the poses. At that moment, I learned to relax,” she told The Creators Project.

Michelle Poler face her fear of awkward situations. Photo: courtesy Michelle Poler.

Michelle Poler face her fear of awkward situations.
Photo: courtesy Michelle Poler.

While the project has been undeniably empowering, Poler still sees plenty of room for personal growth. “I don’t feel I’ve eliminated all my fears. I’m not there yet. But I have my whole life ahead of me,” she told CBS News. “And at least this project gave me the confidence to approach the fears.”


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