Artist’s Story

Kyah Probst, 22, is an Autistic author, multi-disciplinary artist, and Creative Content Executive based in Menasha, Wisconsin. Just two years into Kyah’s life, she discovered pattern-creation and swirl-making as a powerful tool for sensory self-soothing and visual exploration. Kyah concludes that her specific art-making process is a form of Autistic stimming, which has since become a motif in Kyah’s life as she navigates the intersection between disability, personal identity, and creativity as a vessel for catharsis.

A Brief History of Swirl-Making:

For as long as Kyah can remember, her body’s physical movements have been like a paint brush; arms, legs, fingers, and other body parts create imaginary, flowing lines in space which connect her to the world. When she’s stimming—a common symptom of Autism—the lines that connect her movements are kind of like a meditation, a visual study, and a nervous system regulator all in one. A common Autism trope is that “stimming” can only look a certain way; a flapping of the hands, or a rocking back-and-forth. The truth is that it can be so much more than that.

In Kyah’s case, it certainly is. In an article by David Perry called, The Art of Stimming, he says:

“To the casual observer, [my son’s] stimming seems to consist of simple up-and-down motion. But slowed down, as in this video, one can observe the elegant intricacies of his pattern-making. He subtly flicks his wrist or shifts his grip, encouraging the beads into helices of motion and fractal whirls, then releases them back to gravity’s lure so they descend to hang at 90 degrees to the floor. Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, tells me over email that ‘Stimming is a way that we can help ourselves feel calm, soothed, or focused, but it can also be a huge source of joy and beauty.'”

Around age two, Kyah began drawing intricate patterns with materials provided by her mother. At the same time, Kyah began stimming. She had a couple favorite art-based stimms: 1) spirals and swirls which branch off of one another and grow across the page 2) tiny dots connected by lines in groups, divided by negative space. In this sense, Kyah believes that art-making has always been a form of stimming, but instead of her body’s movements giving way to imaginary, flowing lines, it’s giving way to real, perceivable ones.

Kyah’s swirl-making days, age 2+, can be seen influencing all of her current work.

Connecting Stimming to an Artistic, Autistic Philosophy:

One of Kyah’s favorite things about being Autistic is being able to leverage a unique cognitive approach to observing patterns. In her childhood, Kyah didn’t always use toys like cars, dolls, or stuffed animals in a traditional sense. Instead, she enjoyed organizing her toys and other materials by size, color, shape, personal interest, texture, and more. As an artist, this focus on pattern-making and stimming codified a style of unfettered art-making from a young age, and has provided a foundation for integrating values and asking questions in her artistic process. In Kyah’s opinion, art should be both cathartic and meaningful.

Good thing, too, that Kyah’s artistic philosophy and her life philosophies in adulthood mirror each other through a focus on sublimation, or finding ways to transform authentic patterns into, additionally, self-actualized ones. Her oftentimes rapid upward mobility and personal growth while she navigates her identity (which outwardly repudiates typical conceptions of Autistic adults) influences her art tremendously. Given all her seasons of change, Kyah’s art is deeply entrenched in the ideas of transformation, exploration, and self reflection, and often focuses on the patterns between line, texture, shape, and color as a vessel for communicating them. And thus, Kyah is aligned with her artwork completely.

Around the age of 15, Kyah turned unabashedly towards art-making, and further developed her highly unique methods of processing graphic, mixed-media artwork:

While there’s no one way to describe her process, Kyah often uses a medley of traditional mediums (watercolor, acrylic, ink, oil pastel), layers several paintings on top of each other in Adobe Creative Suite, and surgically adds features from a variety of work. Eventually, these designs become meld into intricate, digitally altered works of art to be printed on a variety of media. Poof…transformed.

In 2018, she was named one of 15 Emerging Young Artists through VSA and The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C where her print “Child Rearing” went on a year-long, nationally touring exhibit. Additionally, Kyah’s artwork has been featured in the Department of Education (2016) for the “Yo Soy…Je suis…I am” international exhibit and the 2020 Synergy exhibit in Milwaukee. Pieces from Kyah’s most successful collection of artwork—the “Pareidolia Collection”—can be found HERE.

Current Projects:

Kyah’s most current project is a hand-illustrated, interactive adult coloring book called “Body Space: The Mind and Body Adult Coloring Book.” Featuring 31 designs for use over 3 months, each page includes a diverse array of nature-themed characters, one “emotive color key,” one emotional journal, and access to a four-track, guided meditation. The book is meant to be a self-soothing “visual-emotional journal,” created during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project gets to the roots of her ideas about the interplay between art-making and self-reflection, but this time invites others to utilize her work to perpetuate transformation in their own lives. You can read more about the Body Space technique, view the Body Space trailer, and read more about Kyah’s customer discovery and Canvas Business Model HERE.

Outside of her mixed-media art ventures, Kyah has been shooting dSLR photography since age ten. Kyah has photographed catalogues for Kokoro—a Roman boutique in Trastevere, Italy—events such as UW-Milkwaukee’s 2019 TEDx conference, the menu for Sweetie Cup Thai Cafe in St. Louis, and countless seniors and families. Examples of her hobbyist work can be found under the “photography” tab at kyahprobst.com.

Speaking and Engagement:

Kyah Probst, Emerging Young Artists Program Reception. The John F. Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. 2018.

Kyah Probst, speaking with Yousef Al Otaiba (يوسف العتيبة) Current UAE Ambassador to the United States and Minister Of State. Global Ties U.S. Youth Ambassador Program Reception. Washington D.C. 2021.

Kyah Probst, Campus Correspondent Program National Training. Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, FL, 2020.

Kyah Probst, workshop leader for Media Literacy Week 2020 with NAMLE and PENAmerica Live.

Kyah Probst, Panel Presenter for NAMLE’s “Making Space: How Art & Media Literacy can Reshape Notions of Disability & Representation.”

Professional Life:

Kyah is currently a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she received her B.S. in Community Education and Engagement. She is extremely passionate about higher education, non-profit management, nontraditional education, cooperative living and business development, community organizing, art education integration, voter advocacy, media literacy, digital change-making, and community service. She was most recently a Youth Ambassador to the USA Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai, where she met with dignitaries and world leaders, led a variety of cultural projects, and engaged in people-to-people diplomacy with thousands of visitors to the USA Pavilion each day. Kyah’s ultimate dream is to continue upholding a career with a vested interest in building bridges, rather than climbing ladders. You can view Kyah’s LinkedIn to read her Resume, working updates, and featured articles.

Business inquiries: kyahprobst@bodyspacebook.com