He’s as comfortable with a dental pick as with a camera
Malka Greene photo
Back when Dr. Kenneth Montague started his dental practice in 1992, he was playing guitar and trombone for One, “a pop/reggae band sort of like UB-40,” he says. Eventually, he put music behind him, but has retained a foot in Toronto’s art scene ever since.
There is no question that Montague’s dental practice is successful — it was voted best dental office two years in a row in NOW magazine, and is now seen as go-to for people in the arts and entertainment industry. Patients include Nelly Furtado and members of the Broken Social Scene, and when Cinderella Man was filming here, Montague served as dental consultant and made the period mouthpiece used by Russell Crowe.
“It’s a funny little niche that I have in my life, where the art and the dentistry comes together,” he says.
As an artist, Montague takes photographs of landscapes and architecture, while collecting photographs that document black culture. His interest in art began at an early age, when his parents took their kids to the North American Black Historical Museum in Amherstburg, Ont.
“It spurred my interest in black photography,” he says. “I saw these images that were so different than what I was seeing on television growing up in the ‘70s. It was funny, but not at all the reality of what black America really was. You didn’t see people living it up with Cadillacs and looking really sophisticated.”
As a dentist, Montague could afford collecting photography and other artwork that spoke to him about his identity. He bought a loft where he could display his collection and, in 1997, started the Wedge Gallery, opening his home to the public during photography festivals.
For 10 years he displayed a new set of photographs annually, arranging them so they told a story, along with essays he commissioned. He recently published the best of these photographs, along with the essays, in an art book called FLAVA, which he was recently promoting in Europe at art conventions.
Why are his own pictures of landscapes and architecture rather than black culture? “I try to balance what I collect with a personal interest in architecture and design,” he says.
It’s not the only thing he balances.
“I try to take trips often,” he says. “It’s really difficult when you’re busy as a dentist, it’s a pretty full-time practice, and the art as well is becoming increasingly busy for me. So the balance comes in making sure you can remove yourself frequently and gain a little perspective on what you’re doing. If you just keep at it all the time, it feels like you’re not really living.”
•You can view Montague’s work online at wedgegallerycom.