Who is Kenneth Montague anyways? Well, he’s a handsome dentist who has been practicing the fine art of dentistry in Toronto for about 18 years. He also has an illustrious list of patients, which includes Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, and Canada’s own Nelly Furtado. But only a select few know about his other passion. Yes, he’s guilty of being a dentist by day and an art connoisseur by night.
I first met Dr. Montague six years ago. I was in need of a dentist and a friend suggested that I visit his office. I did, and I had the chance to speak with him briefly. He seemed like a nice, sweet, pleasant guy. He even showed me his vacation pictures that were oddly very impressive. No out of focus shots or the obligatory picture with his name written in the sand. All of his photos were quite imaginative. Who knew that my soon-to-be dentist was the curator of Wedge Gallery?
I had the chance to chill with him on two separate occasions. The first time was when he invited to me have dinner with him and his very artsy friends. The talent at that table was insane! I met Rob Osbourne, who co-designed the Too Black Guys clothing line back in the day (psst…the clothing line blew up when Mary J. Blige wore a Too Black Guys t-shirt in her “Real Love” video), and Dawit Petros, a delightfully gifted photographer. I felt like I was sitting in some swanky New York restaurant soaking up the genius of some up-and-coming artists. However, everyone at the table was very much established. It was quite bizarre to see a dentist in this art world. Up until that point, I had only seen Dr. Montague as an insatiably friendly dentist.
On our second meeting, we shared a fun brunch on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. This gave me a better chance to find out more about his rather interesting other love.
So you’re a dentist by day and curator by night. How do you juggle your “double life?”
I try to keep them separate because I need to focus fully on the task at hand. I’m not trying to do either one to market the other. It’s just who I am. I have meetings about the gallery after work.
I feel like Superman and Clark Kent. I wear the cape at work. My staff calls me Dr. Montague. But outside, I’m Kenneth Montague with Wedge Gallery.
When did you become interested in photography?
At age 10. My dad was doing a graduate degree in Education at a school in the racially charged city of Detroit. We would all drive over together. While my father was in class, I would go with my family to the Detroit Institute of Art for about three to four hours.
We’d spend the day at the Detroit Institute of Art and I remember seeing a picture of a couple in raccoon coats (photographed by VanDerZee). I remember that image – it’s burned into my brain. Highly sophisticated black couple…raccoon coats…stylish car…Harlem, New York. Is this the Harlem, New York that I see on TV? I started to think that there was another world out there that I wasn’t seeing reflected in my life about black culture.
That was the first photograph that grabbed me at age 10. And then I got a Polaroid camera right after that. I loved taking pictures and the mystery of waiting…that got me into photography.
Are you a photographer as well?
Yes…but…I collect photography. It’s hard when you collect something and you see the technical brilliance and you know that not only do I not have the equipment to capture the incredibly detailed pictures…I guess it comes down to self confidence. I collect portraits of black culture and yet I don’t take a lot of those pictures. I take a lot of landscapes…void of people.
What is Wedge Gallery?
It opened in 1997 and featured the work of black photographers that were wedging their way into the mainstream. It was a “gallery in a home” concept for my personal collection. I did the gallery in the hallway that was wedged-shaped, hence the name.
I thought that I would have a house warming to show everybody the beautiful space and I was going to promote the art. I sold eight out of 10 images. And suddenly…I thought, okay, I’ve got a gallery!
You lived in the gallery?
Yes, I enjoyed it! Buying the loft project was a unique opportunity. My private space was upstairs and the public space was downstairs. It got rough sometimes when I was with my girlfriend. People would ring the doorbell at all hours of the night. But no one ever broke or stole anything! I eventually sold it to a member of the rock band Sum 41.
You seem sooo creative. Did you really want to be a dentist?
Yes, my role model was my older cousin who lived in Jamaica and was a dentist. When I was a kid, he would let me hold his hand when he was taking out a tooth. He drove a Volvo, which seemed cool, and everyone called him doctor. Being a dentist seemed like something that I could do.
It was a little hard for me in dental school. I didn’t feel like everyone. I didn’t have the sensibility of a typical dentist. But I feel emotionally and spiritually whole being Dr. Montague. I need the balance in my life. I like that I do something professional – being a dentist, and I like that the art satisfies something in my soul that needs nourishment.
Don’t you just love him?! I love how he seamlessly mixes his very technical day job with the creativity of the art world. Very cool! Thanks for talking to me, Dr. Montague!
For more info on Dr. Montague, please visit the following sites.
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*This interview was originally posted in 2007 on my previous website.