Disconnection between human beings and nature is a predominant theme in McDonnell's "Speedscapes" series. For most urbanites, nature is an abstract image in the backs of their minds and interaction with nature amounts to a scenic view from a speeding car. Urban migration is growing and since the majority of the world's population now lives in urban centers, nature is being left behind and forgotten. The images depicted in McDonnell's Speedscapes are either vague memories, sites unseen, or places abandoned. Simultaneous notions of speed and tranquility are used to make salient a dilemma of contemporary life. There are no signs of human existence in his Speedscapes for they are meant to portray either a missed opportunity or a time in the distant future... long after we are gone.
Human intervention, innovation and survival are predominant themes in McDonnell's "Dwells" series. Dwells are full-stops on the landscape in terms of both panoramic view and human travel. Grid patterns are used to explore built forms and technologies, both primitive and futuristic. Ultimately, this series is meant to portray evidence of human existence.