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Vilma G. Holland - Latin American Painter

Vilma Isabel Gonzalez Cordova was born in Caguas Puerto Rico on 5 November 1928. She was the seventh of ten children in the Gonzalez Cordova family. Her father, Jose, was a merchant while her mother, Rosa Candida, stayed at home raising the children. The first floor of their large, two-story concrete home was the family business and the second floor was the living quarters. J ose sold groceries and provisions downstairs while his wife reared the children upstairs in their seven-bedroom home. Vilma’s artistic talen ts were discovered very early in life. A favorite family story is that as a child Vilma was asked by a teacher to draw pictures of two famous Spanish poets. Upon completion, the teacher refused to believe that Vilma had done the pen and ink portraits without using graph paper or tracing. Accused of lying, she was sent home. Señora Gonzalez Cordova returned to the school with Vilma in tow, and they documented her extraordinary talent.

Vilma attended high school in her hometown of Caguas. Her teacher, Victor Torres Lizardi, a famous painter from Caguas, taught her pen and ink along with watercolors. After some spirited family discussions, Vilma followed her artistic interests majoring in art at Nazareth Junior College in Bardstown, Kentucky (currently Spalding University). She received her diploma on 3 June 1948. Upon graduation, Vilma returned home and enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, UPR. One of her art teachers was Professor Guillermo Sureda. He took an interest in her and continued her education with watercolors. He was from Spain and his wife was from Puerto Rico. Professor Fran Cervoni, another art teacher, taught design to her. Professor Cristobol Ruiz introduced Vilma to oils. Vilma graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art on 27 May 1949. The UPR recognized her design abilities and Cervoni helped Vilma obtain a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Vilma received an Associate in Applied Science from FIT on 11 June 1964. During this time, she divorced her first husband, Emigdio Buonomo.

After college, Vilma taught art at University of Puerto Rico. She also worked in the corporate world where she specialized in corporate identity and product design. At this time, she and a business partner Senora Teresita Abella founded the Thomas Alva Edison School Caguas, Puerto Rico, a private school with an initial enrollment of five students. The continued to grow, and currently serves over 600 pupils. For this and other contributions to her home island, Vilma was honored by Enciclopedia: Grandes Mujeres de Puerto Rico, vol. 1 (1978) as one of the “Grandes Mujeres De Puerto Rico” (Grand Ladies of Puerto Rico).[1]

In the late 1960s, Vilma and her mother rented a loft apartment in Rio Piedros. At that time, Patrick J. Holland first met Vilma and about one year later they were married. The couple moved to Caracas, Venezuela. It was at this time that she turned all of her attention to painting and drawing. In April 1973, Vilma was commissioned to create a pen and ink drawing of Blanca Rodriguez, the Premera Dama De Venezuela (“The First Lady of Venezuela”), which was published on the cover of Mujer Magazine.[2] When exhibition and framing costs became cumbersome, Vilma started a company, Artes Vilma, to market her pen and ink greeting card designs. The cards became very popular. In 1975 the Canis Club de Venezuela (The Dog Club of Venezuela), an associate club of the Federacion Canina De Venezuela, asked her to design a poster to be used for their annual dog show.

Meanwhile, Vilma continued to paint and exhibit. She steadily built a reputation in the Venezuelan art community. Her work was usually developed around a theme and very often touched upon controversial subjects. Her personal crusade became addressing the plight of the indigenous Guajiro Indians living on Lake Maracaibo. Along the Guajira Peninsula, Vilma observed and painted pictures of less fortunate villagers who lived in Palafitos that the people had built over the water. Many of Vilma’s paintings depicted the poverty of the Guajiro Indians, contrasted with the oil richness of their land. The works were critical successes and led to raising social awareness of the inequality.[3] Several of these paintings were exhibited on 3 May 1976.[4]

In late 1976/early 1977, Patrick was transferred to Puerto Rico so Vilma continued her career of painting and expanding her artistic vision. During this time, Vilma met famed artist Alfonso Arana and began studying at his studio in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico . Under his influence, she began to experiment in Arana’s style with pastels mixed with oils and “transparency in art.” The two became close friends and Arana once said of Vilma, “…see a true artist at work.”

By early 1990s Patrick, after over thirty years in the gas business that culminated at Enron International, a division of Enron , retired and the couple moved to Georgia. In 1994 they bought a home in Conyers, Georgia. Patrick met with some local artists. They encouraged him to exhibit Vilma’s work.[5] The local newspaper printed an entire page devoted to her art.[6] By this time, Vilma’s health had shown signs of change, and a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease was made. After six years of home care and two years of nursing home care, Vilma G. Holland died on January 26, 2005.


  1. ^ Kruger Torres, Lola (1975). Enciclopedia Grandes Mujeres de Puerto Rico Tomo IV. Hato Rey, Puerto Rico: Ramallo Bros. Printing, Inc. pp. 59–60. 
  2. ^ Torregrosa, Angela Luisa (2). "Primera Dama De Venezuela". Mujer: 6 – 8.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Check date values in: |date=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  3. ^ "Exposiciones de pintura inauguradas ayer en Maracaibo". Panorama. Lunes 3 de Mayo de 1976.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Pinana Vives, Teresa (1976). Anuario De La Pincura Venezolana. Venezuela: Carnencita Vazquez Losada. pp. 57, 129. 
  5. ^ "Center Street Arts Gallery". Vilma G. Holland. Retrieved 2001.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ Sexton, Beth (August 8, 2001). "East Metro Plus - Exhibit Gives overview of artist's life, works - Vilma G. Holland". The Citizen, Conyers, GA.