Chloe Wise Has Immortalized the Tide Pod Challenge, the Internet’s Deadliest New Meme, as Art

Chloe Wise doesn't like this dumb trend one bit—so she made a painting about it.

Chloe Wise painted this Tide POD for GARAGE. Courtesy of the artist.
Chloe Wise painted this Tide POD for GARAGE. Courtesy of the artist.

Painter Chloe Wise, known for her glamour-tinged food art, has weighed in on what already stands to be the dumbest trend of 2018: the “Tide pod challenge,” which has apparently led to over 100 calls to Poison Control since the beginning of the year.

At the behest of Garage Magazine, Wise dashed off a quick painting of a red, white, and blue Tide pod. The single-serving laundry detergent capsules bear a striking resemblance to fruit-flavored candies, and the idea of eating the tantalizing-looking faux gummies has somehow become a full-blown meme. It is also a perfect fit for Wise, whose oeuvre hearkens back to the heavily laden tables of Dutch Golden Age still lifes, painted in an ornate style known as pronkstilleven.

“Tide pods absolutely fit within that imagery, their succulent color and appetizing shape tapping right into the collective unconscious and triggering hunger and desire,” Wise told artnet News in an email, noting that such works functioned as a display of status and wealth. “Picture a bunch of glimmering Tide pods on a timeless silver platter, alongside some freshly shucked oysters… so classique.”

Chloe Wise's Tide POD painting on display in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Chloe Wise’s Tide pod painting on display in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Of course, despite their deceptively delicious appearance, Tide pods are decidedly inedible. In fact, they are flat-out poisonous to humans, as you might expect. Maybe they’re the memento mori of the still life, the foreboding symbol of a stain-free death?

“I make sure to be aware of all the latest food fads and innovative recipes,” said Wise, who has a robust social media following. “I was quick to incorporate Tide pods as a garnish on my morning avocado toast. Been a total hit on my private food-photo account. (Should the artist be tempted to post her own “Tide pod challenge” video anytime soon, YouTube is cracking down.)

Asked by Garage to speculate on the cleaning product’s flavor, she envisioned a spectacularly gross combination: “Skittles-flavored hot dog casing on the outside, a grape-flavored boiled potato on the inside.”

Young children would be forgiven for mistaking Tide pods for tasty treats, but that’s not what’s going on with this disturbing trend. The “Tide pods challenge” is a joke, undertaken with the misapprehension that eating harmful chemicals wrapped up in an attractive package is somehow funny.

Chloe Wise, <em>O Sweet Spontaneous Earth, I’m Actually Not Obsessed With You Anymore</em> (2016). Photo by Paul Litherland/Courtesy of Galerie Sébastien Bertrand.

Chloe Wise, O Sweet Spontaneous Earth, I’m Actually Not Obsessed With You Anymore (2016). Photo by Paul Litherland/Courtesy of Galerie Sébastien Bertrand.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, no less than 86 teenagers intentionally ingested Tide pods the first three weeks of year, in contrast to the still mind-boggling 53 who did so all of last year. (In case you’re counting, that’s an increase of 62 percent year on year, in less than one month.)

“We cannot stress enough how dangerous this is to the health of individuals—it can lead to seizure, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death,” said Poison Control Centers CEO and executive director Stephen Kaminski in a statement.

Amid a cultural moment that culminated in a public warning about the perils of eating laundry detergent, Wise offered another idea to Garage: “Honestly, can someone just cancel the reality TV show that is humanity in 2018?”


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