As noted in the quotes below, Kortlander was keenly aware of and influenced by his surrounding Southeastern Ohio landscape. But he also conceptualized his work not simply as representing nature but also as a springboard for the imagination. This interplay of observed place and interpretive vision is not dissimilar from Kortlander’s approach in his figurative work, where he took the cultural images that surrounded him during the 60’s and translated them into his own imaginative world of mood and activity.
Autumn is brilliant and even winter, often mild has a remarkable range of color (its ochres, siennas, purples, grays, and blacks interrupted by occasional snows). Spring is lovely everywhere of course but here it is incomparable, from the first ruddy glow of budding trees to the veils of golden green and on through the whites, pinks and magentas of blossoming fruit trees, dogwood, redbud, and wildflowers. From my house on a hilltop, I am constantly aware of the sky, its changes and moods. Days that would be dreary in town are beautiful here, for light modified by atmosphere and the time of day alters the colors and shapes – the entire character – of these ridges dramatically. Pale grasses take on a metallic sheen against a gray sky, dull tree trunks turn black or violet in the rain.” – William Kortlander from the catalogue for the More than Land or Sky – Art from Appalachia exhibit, National Museum of American Art – William Kortlander