Zeroing in on the Life of Scientific Illustrator Mary Foley Benson

The late Mary Foley Benson would have been proud.

Benson, internationally known for her entomology and horticulture illustrations, will be honored by Srdan Tunic, a UC Davis graduate student studying for his master's degree in art history, at a special talk, "Plants, Insects and Art: Mary Foley Benson's Scientific Illustrations," from 11 to 11:50 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 15 in the Teaching and Learning Complex, 482 Hutchison Drive.

The event, open to the public, is being held during Aggie Spirit Week.

Benson (1905-1992) served as scientific illustrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Entomology and the Smithsonian Institution. Later, as a resident of Davis, she engaged in other projects, including working for UC Davis entomologists. Much of her work appears in campus buildings, including Briggs Hall, home of the Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (See research story on Mary Foley Benson by forest entomologist Malcolm Furniss)

Tunic is a freelance curator and researcher. A graduate of the University of Belgrade and University of the Arts in Belgrade, Serbia, he holds degrees in both art history and cultural management. He anticipates receiving his master's degree from UC Davis in June 2023.

"As a kid, I really wanted to become an entomologist or a biologist--if not a veterinarian--but I was awful in natural sciences," he said. "So I pursued my other passions--art and history. But these old desires really don't go away and mutate over time. I am still fascinated by insects and the natural world, and a few years ago wrote an article on environmental street art. After coming to Davis, the Bohart Museum was on my must-see list and where I met the director, Lynn Kimsey (UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology) who told me about a local artist who did entomological and botanical illustrations."

"A few months later, my art history department granted me the opportunity to do an internship there and I have been diving deep into the life and work of Mary Foley Benson since the spring quarter of 2022. It's really like detective work! I have been surrounded by insects, books and artworks for this whole time--which sounds great in my world--and I am thankful for the whole Bohart Museum team for making this possible."

Tunic has been working independently and collaborating with various art and education initiatives since 2012. He is a co-founder of Trans-Cultural Dialogues (as part of Cultural Innovators Network), Kustosiranje/About and Around Curating, and Street Art Walks Belgrade. He collaborates with art professionals, researching fields such as contemporary art, curatorial practices, street art and graffiti, science fiction, art appropriation, cultural diversity, experiential learning, independent cultural scene and self-management. His work has been published in a number of magazines and journals.

Since 2018, Tunic has been a contributing editor for Not Afraid of the Ruins, especially contributing to the open call Local Science Fictions (2019) and the forthcoming NAOTR anthology (2022). More about his work is  at