For the past 10 years, Lawrence University art historian Carol Lawton has been carefully studying the Greek and Roman votive reliefs of lesser-known gods and heroes unearthed in excavations of the Greek Agora, the civic, commercial and religious center of ancient Athens.
Starting this September, Lawton will be able to devote a year’s worth of undivided attention to her ongoing research as a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow.
Professor of art history and holder of the Ottilia Buerger Professorship in Classical Studies, Lawton recently was named one of 187 national recipients of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship by the New York-based foundation. She is the second member of the Lawrence art department in the past 10 years to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Sculptor Todd McGrain was named a recipient in 1996.
Lawton was selected for the $38,000 grant from among nearly 3,000 artists, scholars and scientists who applied. The fellowship will enable her to complete work on her book “Popular Greek Religion and the Votive Reliefs from the Athenian Agora.”
Since undertaking her research, Lawton has studied more than 400 marble reliefs that have been discovered among the excavations of the Agora. Her research focuses on understanding the function and role of sculptural art in ancient Athens.
“These reliefs are dedications created by individuals in request of, or in thanks for, help from deities and heroes,” said Lawton, who spends most of her summers in Greece working on the project. “They are of interest primarily for what they tell us about Athenian popular religion. They were dedicated not so much to the more familiar Olympian deities such as Athena and Apollo, but rather to gods and heroes who were more immediately important and accessible to the people. They tend to honor healing and fertility gods or the heroes and gods who were thought to ensure prosperity.
“I am certainly thrilled as well as very grateful to have been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship,” she added. “This grant will give me the opportunity to dedicate an entire year of uninterrupted work on my project and as any researcher will tell you, that is invaluable.”
Lawton joined the Lawrence art department in 1980 and serves as curator of Lawrence’s Ottilia Buerger Collection of ancient and Byzantine coins. She has previously received research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the J. Paul Getty Trust and is the author of the 1995 book “Attic Document Reliefs of the Classical and Hellenistic Periods” (Oxford University Press).
In 2004, Lawton was recognized with Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, becoming the only faculty member to earn all three of the college’s major teaching awards. She was the recipient of the college’s Young Teacher Award in 1982 and the Freshman Studies Teaching Award in 1998. She earned her Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University.
Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded “to men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability” across a wide range of interests, from the natural sciences to the creative arts. Fellow selections are based on the recommendations from hundreds of expert advisors.
Since its founding in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has awarded more than $247 million in fellowships to more than 16,000 individuals, among them Ansel Adams, Martha Graham, Linus Pauling, Aaron Copland and Langston Hughes.